‘Solid start’ for Rassie Erasmus

Munster 17 Zebre 0: Last night’s pre-season friendly at the Waterford Regional Sports Centre lacked the type of quality that Munster supporters will expect as the season progresses under a new coaching ticket, but South African boss Rassie Erasmus was pleased with the victory.

The win, by a team that was more youthful than experienced, was a positive and, despite the wet, windy conditions, they produced some decent passages of play. Even when Erasmus made wholesale changes in the second half, there was a good balance to the Munster play.

“Some adjustment had to be made because of the weather and the way I would describe this would be to say it was a solid start, not a great one, not a bad one, but a solid one. Overall, I was happy, particularly (happy) with the defence when called upon,” said the coach.

Zebre won the toss and played with the aid of a strong wind in the opening half. Yet, Munster began the game comfortably and they were able to win plenty of possession albeit without the benefit of decent position.

Although that meant there was no clear scoring opportunity, Munster will have been happy with the early form of local favourite Jack O’Donoghue and Dave O’Callaghan up front, as well as rookie Colm O’Shea in the middle of the pitch.

But, as the rain took hold and time moved on, this game needed a score and it came in the 27th minute when Munster moved ahead. Ian Keatley chipped through for young O’Shea to gather and break away. He was stopped but Keatley again got possession and chipped through a second time. On this occasion Darren Sweetnam swooped and the winger took full advantage when his opposite number was unable to control the ball going backwards. Sweetnam fared better to pounce for a try that Keatley failed to convert from out wide.

Zebra finished the opening half in attack mode, yet everything they could fire at Munster was repelled and the home side then went on to create the next scoring chance 13 minutes into the second half. Again, Keatley created the opening with a chip behind the Zebre defence but Stephen Fitzgerald was beaten to the punch by the defence.

Keatley tried the same trick a minute later as he sought to exploit what was clearly Zebre’s defensive weakness. This time, his perfectly judged kick was picked up by Ronan O’Mahony who went over for the second try and Keatley converted to make it 12-0 after 55 minutes.

With the aid of the strong wind, Munster kept on plugging away in search of another try and they got it nine minutes from time. Substitute Dan Goggin broke a tackle 30 metres out and made enough ground to draw the Zebre defence before sending Sweetnam on a short gallop to score in the corner.

After that, the Munster age profile got younger as Erasmus gave the remaining young members of a 14 man bench a run and, predictably, Zebre threw everything into an effort to gain some consolation from the tie.

Munster found themselves stretched, but they proved dogged in defence and held out to deny the visitors the score they sought so desperately. Significantly, after winning back possession on their own line, Munster finished the game on the offensive.

Munster:

S Fitzgerald; D Sweetnam, C Bohane, C O’Shea, R O’Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; J Ryan, N Scannell, S Archer; J Madigan, B Holland (captain); D O’Callaghan, C Oliver, J O’Donoghue.

Replacements used:

K O’Byrne, P McCabe, J Andress, B Scott, D O’Shea, D Foley, O Lyons, G Coombes, J Poland, C Fitzgerald, D Goggin, D Johnston, C Nash, S McMahon.

Zebre:

C Canna; G Venditti, T Boni, T Castello, G Di Giulio; E Padovani, G Palazzani; A Lovotti, O Fabiani, P Ceccarelli; G Koegelenberg, F Ruzza; J Sarto (captain), M Mbanda, D Minnie.

Replacements used:

T D’Apice, D Chistolini, G Roan, Q Geldenhuys, G Pettinelli, C Engelbrecht, C Festuccia, G Bisegni, A De Marchi.

Referee:

G Conway (IRFU).

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