Friday 9 December 2016

O'Mahony's return adds to a sweet feast for Munster

Munster 49 Zebre 5

Thomond Park

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Carlo Canna of Zebre under pressure from Peter O’Mahony of Munster at Thomond Park in Limerick yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Carlo Canna of Zebre under pressure from Peter O’Mahony of Munster at Thomond Park in Limerick yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Ten points earned in seven days is as good as it gets for Munster, but Rassie Erasmus would have liked more of a test for his side a week out from their clash with Leinster.

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This five-point haul was neatly wrapped and delivered by the 32nd minute, with three tries in the previous ten minutes finishing off the Italians.

In a competitive opening quarter, the brilliant Darren Sweetnam scored the first after three minutes, then denied Zebre a certain breakaway try seven minutes later when he somehow reeled in Gio Venditti after he intercepted a Keith Earls pass.

But the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for the arrival of Peter O'Mahony after 60 minutes. It's 16 months since he last featured in a red shirt and ten days short of a year since he ruptured his knee ligaments in the World Cup against France and it is a big lift to the province ahead of a crucial few weeks of the season.

In the end Munster ran in seven tries against a desperately outclassed opponents. Sweetnam, Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Simon Zebo all scored before the break as Munster led 28-0, but a penalty try, Stephen Archer and Stander's second finished the rout.

This game was over long before half-time, but after Sweetnam had given Munster a third-minute lead, he was also their saviour at a key juncture of the game. With the home side 7-0 up Venditti picked off a pass from Earls and galloped clear on a straight-forward run to the try-line, but Sweetnam showed amazing pace to eat into the winger's ten-yard head-start to deny him the score.

Munster's CJ Stander is tackled by Zebre's Gabriele Di Giulio. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's CJ Stander is tackled by Zebre's Gabriele Di Giulio. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Munster immediately went up the field and Alex Wootton won a penalty at the breakdown, which led to Munster's second try. From that point Munster looked like scoring every time the ball was given to their backs and two more tries in the next ten minutes wrapped up the bonus point.

This was the first time that the Munster support got a look at South African centre Jaco Taute, and he appeared to be a steady hand alongside Bleyendaal. Early on he timed his pass beautifully to send Sweetnam in for his first try of the season, but he was solid in defence too, which will please the Munster hierarchy.

After Sweetnam's defensive heroics, Murray once again benefited from the work of his pack with a third try in two games. This time he had the Munster maul to thank for the score in the 21st minute. Wootton was then denied a try when he was tackled without the ball, although referee Dan Jones adjudged that he had knocked on instead.

But Munster's third try came hot on its heels, when Stander charged down Carlo Canna's clearance kick and then touched down under the posts himself after 29 minutes.

Munster's Peter O'Mahony in action in a scrum. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's Peter O'Mahony in action in a scrum. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Bleyendaal again conducted the orchestra with his usual assuredness and he converted all three opening tries for a 21-0 lead. And after the kicker intercepted a Zebre pass, Zebo bagged his second of the season off Murray's chip through to clinch the bonus point. Again Bleyendaal was on the mark from the tee which game Munster a 28-0 half-time lead. With the win in the bag both Bleyendaal and Earls were hauled ashore early in the second-half, but the procession didn't stop there.

When Sweetnam was denied a second try by an early tackle by Gideon Koegelenberg a penalty try and yellow card was the result and when Ian Keatley added the conversion Munster held a 35-0 lead with 27 minutes remaining.

O'Mahony's arrival came in the middle of a raft of changes, but the Cork man wasn't long getting in the action, and was involved twice in the build-up to his side's sixth try. On his 150th Munster appearance Donnacha Ryan then fed Keatley, who sent the impressive Archer through the Zebre cover for the try.

There was to be some reward for the men in white as lock Quintin Geldenhuys floated a lovely pass to winger Gabriele Di Giulio to score in the corner eight minutes from time, but at that stage this game had been won twice by the home side.

Scorers - Munster: D Sweetnam, C Murray, CJ Stander 2, S Zebo, pen try, S Archer tries; T Bleyendaal 4 cons, I Keatley 3 cons. Zebre: G Di Giulio try.

Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, K Earls (C Bohane 49), J Taute, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal (I Keatley 49), C Murray (D Williams 60); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 60), D Casey (N Scannell 68), S Archer (J Ryan 68); D O'Shea (P O'Mahony 60), D Ryan; B Holland, T O'Donnell (C Oliver 68), CJ Stander.

Zebre: E Padovani; G Di Giulio, G Bisegni, T Castello (T Boni 56), G Venditti (L Greeff 55); C Canna, G Palazzani (C Engelbrecht 69); A Lovotti (B Postiglioni 63), T D'Apice (C Festuccia 60), D Chistolini (G Roan 51); Q Geldenhuys, G Koegelenberg; J Sarto (D Minnie 46), J Meyer (J Furno 65), F Ruzza.

Referee: Dan Jones (WRU)

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