Hanrahan the star of Munster bonus show
Munster 29 Zebre 3
Published 27/10/2012 | 05:00
Felix Jones staked his claim for the Ireland full-back berth by capping his return to the Munster starting side with a try at Thomond Park.
But he was upstaged by youngster JJ Hanrahan, who bagged a brace of tries in his first Munster start, which eventually saw Rob Penney's side past Zebre.
After making so many changes from the previous two weeks, Penney will be delighted to have emerged from a difficult assignment with five points, which sees them climb to third place for 24 hours at least.
But after the second-half procession, it would be easy to forget a stuttering opening 40 minutes from the home side.
After less than a minute, Zebre captain Gonzalo Garcia saw his very ambitious penalty kick from his own 10-metre line drop well short, but already the Italians had shown more enterprise than Edinburgh did in their visit to Thomond on Sunday last.
A few days after receiving his first call-up to the senior Irish squad, Dave Kilcoyne once more impressed at loose-head.
However, on the other side of the front-row Stephen Archer had a difficult opening half as he tried to come to terms with veteran Salvatore Perugini.
Welsh referee Neil Hennessy was proving strict against both sides at the breakdown and Munster had the chance to open the scoring when Ruggero Trevisan failed to roll away from the tackle.
But, after successfully landing his previous 15 kicks in the competition, Ian Keatley's 17th-minute penalty sailed wide of the target. He made amends after 25 minutes, though, when a Zebre forward played the ball in the ruck and Keatley landed the kick from straight in front of the posts.
Penney has consistently been irritated by Munster's error count to date and after another sloppy opening half, a three-point lead at the break was never going to satisfy the New Zealander.
But he would have been infuriated to see that lead disappear a minute before the break when the Munster front-row popped up under a powerful Zebre scrum and former Waratahs back Daniel Halangahu slotted the penalty from the right to send the sides in level.
On his first senior start, Hanrahan was guilty of another unforced error just after the break, which ended a promising Munster attack, but by the 46th minute his name was in lights following his first Munster try.
The score came after Donncha O'Callaghan made inroads up the left touchline and, after a quick recycle, the ball was switched right. Once the Zebre defence drifted wide to cover Luke O'Dea, Hanrahan pounced for the try himself.
Keatley nailed the difficult conversion to give Munster a 10-3 lead and after turning down a couple of kickable penalties -- instead opting for the corner -- the Munster pressure finally told.
This time it was Jones who capitalised on the holes in Zebre rearguard after the move went left and then right off the back of an attacking Munster scrum.
But Jones still had plenty to do and a typical mazy run guided him through the gap for his first try since his return from injury.
And 13 minutes from time Munster made sure of the win when Hanrahan ran through onto Keatley's neat grubber kick to score and the out-half converted.
And just like last weekend's Heineken Cup win, the bonus point arrived in the closing stages, when O'Dea dived over in the right corner after Munster had laid siege to the Zebre line.
Munster -- F Jones; L O'Dea, C Laulala, JJ Hanrahan, S Zebo (J Murphy 64); I Keatley, D Williams (C Murray 56); D Kilcoyne (M Horan 56), M Sherry (D Varley 56), S Archer; Donncha O'Callaghan, D Ryan (B Holland 66); Dave O'Callaghan, P O'Mahony, P Butler (T O'Donnell 64).
Zebre -- R Trevisan; D Odiete (L Orquera 61), G Garcia, D Halangahu, M Pratuchetti; A Chiesa (T Tebaldi 57), L Martinelli; S Perugini (M Aguero h-t), A Manici (D Giazzon 52), L Redolfini (D Ryan 52); E Caffini (F Cazzola 61), J Sole; F Ferrarini, F Cristiano (N Belardo 66), D van Schalkwyk.
Ref -- N Hennessy (WRU).