Alan Gaffney fielded the majority of his players available to him and that meant valuable game time for people like Keith Wood, John Hayes, David Wallace and Rob Henderson, all returning after major injury problems. This distinguished quartet were all prominent, as the visitors, promoted to the English Premiership at the end of last season, were run off their feet in the first 20 minutes or so after which Munster led by 17 points to nil.
Subsequently, the edge went off the home performance and they were unable to add to the scoreline before the end of 40 minutes. Having come through last week's international against Wales, Wood again showed no signs of the injury that has threatened his career over the past 12 months or so. He put in some good hits and made a few trademark bursts although he also displayed a familiar propensity for using the boot on the ball I stress when launching one aimless kick down the middle of the park.
Hayes, too, was prominent in the loose as he eased himself back into a match situation. Wallace will have benefited from the outing although it was disconcerting to see him leave the field clutching a clearly injured knee.
Alan Quinlan and Jim Williams in the back-row are clearly in robust good health, a remark that equally applies to the second-row giants Paul O'Connell and Donnacha O'Callaghan. Eoin Reddan showed some lively touches at the base of the scrum but the back division as a whole lacked punch and penetration after those promising early moments although then again that's an alarming facet of the team's make-up for some time. "It was the kind of game we wanted," said Gaffney. "We had a lot of national men back and they've only had two sessions with us so far. I'm trying to give our own players game time as well and it's not easy to fit all that in over 90 minutes. I'm not making excuses but the ball was slippery and we couldn't seem to get beyond one phase and we'll just have to work harder."
Simon Kerr, a late replacement at loose head prop, stormed over for Munster after constant pressure in the fourth minute, Jeremy Staunton converting with a good kick. Wood was at the end of a driving line-out maul for try number two and then a quickly taken penalty by Reddan well supported by Quinlan led to a smart score by Mossy Lawler. Munster again upped the pace after the break, Denis Leamy made the running for Anthony Horgan, who had to display seriously impressive handling skills in accepting the scoring pass.Jason Holland converted.
It was around this time that Gaffney rang the changes in earnest and suddenly Munster found themselves on the back foot as the previous cohesive teamwork fell asunder. Rotherham ran in two tries from longish range by substitute Jonathan Pritchard and Michael Wood, both converted by Phil Jones, to narrow their deficit to 24-14.
It was no longer a match in the true sense of the word, more like tip rugby, and much of the reason for staging it in the first place went out the window. Eddie Halvey grabbed a fifth Munster try just before the end of the second session with Holland converting to stretch Munster's advantage to 31-14. Newcomer Shaun Payne will have caught Gaffney's eye with a dazzling run down the right wing for try number six midway through the third session. Holland converted and was immediately replaced by Fionn McLoughlin who became Munster's 20th replacement of the game. Rotherham had the last say, an unconverted try at the death by Anthony Elliott.
J. Staunton; M. Lawler, M. Mullins, R. Henderson, A. Horgan; J. Holland, E. Reddan; S. Kerr, K. Wood, J. Hayes, D. O'Callaghan, P. O'Connell, A. Quinlan, D. Wallace, J. Williams.
Replacements, D. Crotty for Staunton 38 mins; S. Payne for Lawler; E. Halvey for O'Connell; D. Leamy for Quinlan, all half time. F. Roche for Hayes, J. Blaney and M. McPhail for Horgan, 50 mins; J. Jones Hughes, F. Murphy and C. McMahon for Mullins, Reddan and Wallace, 53 mins. T. Hogan for O'Callaghan, C. O'Sullivan for Henderson, P. Malone for Williams, J. Flannery for Blaney 65 mins; E. McGovern for Roche 72 mins; A. Long and T. Hayes for Flannery and Leamy 79. D. Urlich for Murphy and J. Danagher for Kerr 81.
J. Benson; A. Elliott, J. Ewens, P. Jorgensen, M. Wood; P. Jones, J. Rauluni; N. Loyd, C. Johnson, C. Loader, D. Cooke, G. Kenworthy, L. Greeff, R. Earnshaw, J. Cockle.