The Irish province picked up only their second win in five matches as the Vodacom Bulls were again left point-less after last weekend’s 35-21 defeat in an equally damp Glasgow.
The visitors reserved their best rugby for the final quarter – finally shaking off the torpor that had seen them slip 21 points in arrears and in danger of a complete implosion shortly after halftime.
They pressed hard for the losing bonus point after their second try had got them into striking distance. They hammered away for five solid minutes but time ran out against a resolute Munster defence for an often one-dimensional attack.
The Vodacom Bulls had made a reasonably solid start to keep Munster at bay in the opening quarter and even took first blood with a long-range Johan Goosen penalty in the 10th minute.
Munster flyhalf Joey Carbery cancelled that out from closer range ten minutes later and the Bulls began to creak and buckle under mounting pressure from their own misfiring lineout and a mounting penalty count.
The result was a pair of tries to big and raw-boned eighthman Gavin Coombes seven minutes apart – both of them scored at grass-cutting height from no more than a metre – after a succession of drives. Carbery converted both to give Munster a 14-point halftime lead.
That was turned into a 21-point mountain for the Vodacom Bulls to climb within two minutes of the restart after a disastrous defensive lapse. Replacement flyhalf Chris Smith (Goosen was withdrawn for an HIA it seemed) fumbled a grubber 10 minutes from his own line and had the embarrassment of seeing loosehead prop Jeremy Loughman hack it ahead and touch down in the in-goal.
Bulls tighthead Mornay Smith was yellow-carded for a silly late hit shortly afterwards but it was while the visitors were reduced to 14 that they scored their first try. Flanker WJ Steenkamp touched down in the right hand corner, although the try was owed to replacement wing David Kriel who collected a midfield up-and-under and raced 40 metres to set up the field position.
Munster restored their advantage to 21 points when flank Tadhg Beirne got the bonus point try with 20 minutes remaining from another one-metre drive.
A Vodacom Bulls breakout from halfway led to a try for the busy Kriel with 16 minutes remaining to hint at a comeback for the visitors. But it was not to be.
Munster 31 (17) – Tries: Gavin Coombes (2), Jeremy Loughman, Tadhg Beirne. Conversions: Joey Carbery (4). Penalty goal: Carbery.
Vodacom Bulls 17 (3) – Tries: David Kriel, WJ Steenkamp. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goa: Johan Goosen.