Despite taking a three point lead in the early stages, a poor first half performance from Glasgow Warriors saw them shed 24 points as Munster moved ahead of the Warriors in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Long spells of territory and possession couldn't be converted into points and two tries from home debutant CJ Stander sealed the win inside the first half. Speaking to www.glasgowwarriors.org head coach Townsend said: 'that was our poorest performance of the season by a distance.
"We dropped off tackles and we stepped off Munster._ We said before we came to Ireland that we had to make sure we put pressure on them and we did the opposite.
"We need to make sure now that we use this as motivation to get back to a far higher level performance and show that we"re the kind of side who belongs_ alongside the best teams in the competition."
Duncan Weir, making his first appearance for the best part of two months, put the first points on the board with a penalty from forty five metres but just a few minutes later Munster were in front, where they would stay for the next seventy five.
The first of a series of breakaways throughout the match by Tommy O'donnell set up a ruck under the Glasgow posts and with the defence scrambling to get back in position, Stander claimed the first of two scores on the night. Although the TMO was called into action, there was little deliberation before awarding the try.
The Warriors attacking play was neat in the opening quarter but the final incision through the Munster defence was elusive. Weir attempted to keep the board ticking over with a drop-goal attempt but on a freezing night in Limerick, the ball slid wide of the posts.
Munster's traditional approach has been put to one side under Rob Penney and the new expansive running game was able to slice through the Warriors defensive effort.
With just over a quarter of the match gone, three phases of attack were all that were needed for O'donnell to race clear and even the pace of DTH wasn't enough to track the number 7 who dotted down under the posts.
The TMO was called into action for a second time as Glasgow threatened._ After a half break from Lamont, the ball was worked wide with Rob Harley moving the ball to DTH van der Merwe._ The Canadian flyer looked to have touched down in the corner but he was adjudged to have stepped just into touch.
An O"Gara penalty added to his previous efforts but Glasgow remained just about in contention at 17-3 as the game approached half-time.
Inside the Munster 22 with a couple of minutes to play in the half, Henry Pyrgos" delivery didn't find a clean take and CJ Stander was first to gather. He took off through a large gap in the defensive line, showing remarkable pace for a blindside flanker."_ On his first showing at Thomond Park, he became an instant fans favourite as he motored over in the corner.
O"Gara made it four out of four with the boot to take it to 24-3 at half time.
The second half followed the pattern of the first with tempers always threatening to boil over around the breakdown.
The Warriors did try to inject some pace and structure back into the game with the introduction of Wight and Matawalu as a new half back pairing but the Munster defence stood firm.
Munster always looked dangerous and the TMO was again called into service with home hooker Sherry looking to have gone over, but Rob Harley - who battled hard in the tackle all night - was able to push the front rower into touch.
The only score of the half came as Munster claimed the bonus point victory which sees them leapfrog the Warriors in the RaboDirect PRO12 table. _
A series of set-pieces resulted in a penalty try, and the easiest of conversions for O"Gara to make it a night to forget for Gregor Townsend's side.
F Jones; D Howlett capt, K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O'Gara, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O'Callaghan, D Ryan; CJ Stander, T O'Donnell, J Coughlan.
Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, P Stringer, I Keatley, C Laulala.
P Murchie; S Lamont, S Hogg, P Horne, DTH Van Der Merwe, (Sub McGuigan 60) D Weir (Sub Wight 48), H Pyrgos, (Sub Matawalu 48) R Grant (Sub Reid 60) D Hall (Sub MacArthur), M Cusack; T Swinson (Sub Eddie 65), A Kellock (capt); R Harley, J Barclay, R Wilson (Sub Strauss 48)
Replacements: P MacArthur, G Araoz, G Reid, J Strauss, J Eddie, N Matawalu, S Wight, B McGuigan.