Zebre 19 Munster 29
Munster maintained their 100% record in 11 league games with victory against Zebre today, writes John Fallon.
Assistant coaches Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones took charge as new boss Johann van Graan just had a watching brief, but the South African’s era in Munster got off to a winning start nevertheless.
The only blip coming when they were temporarily down to 13 men before the break.
Munster looked to be coasting to victory against a second string Zebre side when they opened up a 17-0 lead after just 26 minutes.
Rory Scannell got in for the opening try after early dominance finally yielded a touchdown after 18 minutes, with JJ Hanrahan’s conversion making it 10-0 having earlier landed one of three penalties.
Scrum-half James Hart crowned his first start with try after temporary replacement Brian Scott snatched a lineout.
But then it unravelled for Munster when first Robin Copeland was binned and Zebre struck for their opening try when centre Giulio Bisegni scored after former Connacht full-back Ciaran Gaffney was stopped short.
And then when the impressive Sam Arnold was yellow-carded, Zebre used the space to go wide and send captain Jacopo Sarto over in the left corner for a try which was again converted by scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani to leave it 17-14 to Munster at the break.
Munster took control again once they got back to 15 players and Alex Wootton wrapped up the game and a bonus point with two tries in a four-minute spell.
He got the first after 53 minutes in the right corner and then a superb long pass from Simon Zebo sent him over in the left corner for the clinching score.
Winger Gio Venditti pulled back a try for an understrength Zebre side but they couldn’t salvage a bonus point.
Indeed, it was Munster who finished on a high when Calvin Nash got over for their fifth try in the dying seconds.
Zebre: Tries: G Bisegni, J Sarto, G Venditti. Cons : G Palazzani (2)
Munster: Tries: A Wootton (2), R Scannell, J Hart, C Nash. Cons : JJ Hanrahan (4). Pen : Hanrahan.
Zebre: C Gaffney; P Bruno, G Bisegni, F Afamasaga, G D’Onofrio; M Azzolini, G Palazzani; C Ah-Nau, L Luus, E Bello; J Tucker, L Krumov; J Sarto, J Meyer, D Minnie.
Replacements: O Fabiani for Luus (41), M Mbanda for Minnie (43),
Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; J O’Donoghue, C Cloete, R Copeland.
Replacements: B Scott for Archer (21-27), K O’Byrne for Marshall (63), D O’Shea for Holland (63), C Nash for Wootton (67), ), B Scott for O’Connor (67), J Stafford for Hart (76), B Johnston for Zebo (76),
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland).