It duly materialised on a 47-0 score line that included seven tries which helped to keep another disappointing attendance of around 5,000 content on a bitterly cold Good Friday evening.
Accordingly, Munster’s challenge for a place in the knock-out stages of the Pro 12 is back on track leaving coach Anthony Foley encouraged facing into the big games coming up against Leinster and Connacht.
“I thought we played good rugby against the wind in the first half and took advantage of that in the second”, he commented. “Our target is to get into the top four in the Pro 12 and make the European Cup next season and this will help. Now it’s on to Leinster. It helped that we had six guys back tonight but of course they are in much the same situation”.
Ever improving young centre Rory Scannell was voted man of the match but he insisted that “we are not getting carried away. We were disappointed at how we played in Cardiff last week when we lacked physicality so we concentrated on getting a win this time without thinking about a bonus point but of course that helps to keep us in the hunt”.
Referee Phillips gave Zebre a hard time, especially in the first half when they had the strong wind at their backs although in truth they hardly raised a gallop at any stage. Their cause was certainly not helped by the early penalty try awarded for the deliberate collapsing of a rolling maul. Johnny Holland tapped over the conversion after which the side as a whole varied their play admirably with Keith Earls and Ronan O’Mahony using their scorching pace to seriously threaten the Italian defence.
Zebre suffered a double whammy on 23 minutes when after fierce pressure by the Munster pack, skipper Quintin Geldenhuys was yellow carded. From the resultant scrum under the posts, the ball was flashed wide to the left where O’Mahony crossed for a well taken try which Holland converted.
It remained 14-0 to half time and after an uncertain Munster start to the second half, Darren Sweetnam swept down the right wing before timing his pass perfectly to Simon Zebo who outpaced the cover and touch down a superb try that Holland again converted. At that stage, the last thing the Italians needed was to see Irish stars C J Stander and Conor Murray sprung from the bench.
Ian Keatley had also just come in for Holland when he launched an attack from his own 22 which Sweetnam again carried on delightfully before once more sending Zebo racing away for the crucial 4th try. Murray converted and then it was the turn of Stander to delight the fans as he finished off yet another long distance assault.
Murray continued his try scoring act with Munster’s sixth before the Italians conceded their second penalty try for a scrummaging offence and Holland converted to wrap up the scoring.
S Zebo; D Sweetnam, K Earls, R Scannell, R O’Mahony; J Holland, T O’Leary; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer, D Ryan, B Holland capt, D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue. Replacements – C Murray and CJ Stander for O’Leary and O’Callaghan both 49; I Keatley for Holland 51 (temp); M Sherry and J Cronin for N Scannell and Kilcoyne 55; M Sagario and D Johnston for Archer and Earls 57; Keatley for Zebo 64; D Foley for Ryan 67.
K Van Zyl; L Sarto, G Bisegni, T Boni, G Toniolatti; K Haimona, W Palazzini; J Meyer, F Ruzza, J Cook, V Bemaba, Q Geldenhuys capt, D Christolini, A Fabian G Roan. Replacements –G Koegelenberg for Bernabo and M Pratichetti for Bisegni, both half time; U Beyers for Toniolatti; L Burgess for Haimona 58; B Postiglioni for Roan 60; A DiMarchi for Van Zyl 73.
Referee – D Phillips (IRFU).