Despite victory, Munster dropped a place to sixth in the table because Ulster managed a bonus point win away to Treviso.
However, last year’s finalists are just four points adrift of leaders Llanelli Scarlets and Connacht with a game in hand over both.
Foley insisted his troops did extremely well to emerge with the spoils against a fast improving Italian outfit: “When you come to Italy now, to Treviso or Parma, to their home patch you know you are going to be tested physically. “We knew that going into the game, a lot of teams have struggled over here and we’re fortunate to have come out with four points. It’s important to understand that they’re now a far better side than their history would suggest.”
It was a hard slog from the opening whistle although Munster took an early lead with a Mark Chisholm try, a score which ultimately proved the difference. Munster led 13-12 at the interval with Ian Keatley adding to the try with a conversion and two penalties. Zebre stayed in it though, largely thanks to the efforts of fly-half Kelly Haimona, who knocked over four first-half penalties.
Dave O’Callaghan was introduced by Munster at the break but he was quickly back on the sidelines after picking up a yellow card for a high tackle. Crucially though Zebre failed to take advantage of the extra man. Haimona missed the penalty that followed the O’Callaghan card while a Keatley effort fell short close to the hour mark. Still, Munster were winning the battle for territory, and turned another shot at three points down with 12 minutes to go, instead kicking for the corner. Moments later Keatley dropped a goal for the last score of the tie and Foley’s charges played out the remaining minutes in control.
“Yes, it was a hard fought win, we got a good start but from there on we lost control of the ball, lost control in the air and there was a big momentum swing into the second half of that first half.
So, from a position where we thought we could rule the game we actually ended up struggling for vast chunks of it. However, I thought the half backs in the second half controlled the latter stages of the game and helped bring us through to a good win.”
Were there times when he was annoyed? “Yes, we gave away (silly) penalties and there were times when we were frustrated because of our lack of ability to take possession off them, we suffered a bit because we had negative outcomes in terms of the kick in the air, or collapsing the maul, and it just became a vicious cycle for a while that we couldn’t get out of. Fortunately we weathered that storm.”
K Van Zyl, D Berryman, T Boni, M Pratichetti, M Visentin, K Haimona, L Burgess, A De Marchi, O Fabiani, P Ceccarelli, G Koegelenberg, M Bortolami, E Caffini, J Meyer, J Cook.
U Beyers for Boni (73), B Postiglioni for De Marchi (40), G Roan for Ceccarelli (62), F Ruzza for Koegelenberg (66), F Cristiano for Caffini (71).
A Conway; D Sweetnam, F Saili, R Scannell, R O’Mahony ; I Keatley, T O’Leary; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; D Foley, M Chisholm; B Holland (captain), J O’Donoghue, R Copeland.
D O’Callaghan for O’Donoghue (ht), D Williams for O’Leary (50), M Sherry for N Scannell (60), D Kilcoyne for Cronin (60), M Sagario for Ryan (67), S Buckley for Foley (72), G van den Heever for O’Mahony (76).
Dudley Philips (IRFU).