Zebo stakes claim for Ireland call-up with brace
Munster 36 Zebre 8
In his programme notes, Munster coach Rob Penney said it "would be hard to walk away" from a progressing Munster when his tenure comes to an end this summer, and after a night like last night you can see where he is coming from.
Simon Zebo raced in a first-half brace to do his case for an international call-up no harm, while the flourishing 10-12 partnership of JJ Hanrahan and Ian Keatley impressed in a bonus point win.
After the concession of a penalty at the scrum, Tommaso D'Apice made the most of a poor defence to score in the left corner after 12 minutes.
Despite the setback, Munster hit back immediately as Hanrahan slotted a penalty from the left after Zebre infringed at the breakdown.
A nasty leg injury to Dave O'Callaghan in the 18th minute saw Donncha O'Callaghan sprung from the bench earlier than expected to break Munster's appearance record, but – perhaps with international duties in mind – the reshuffle saw Billy Holland move to the back-row instead of Ryan.
After the four-minute stoppage, Munster seemed to reorganise themselves somewhat, and after they earned a penalty when disintegrating the Zebre scrum on the Italians' ball they began to gain a territorial hold.
And after a sweet line cut by Ian Keatley sucked in the cover, Zebo was the lucky recipient at the end of a three-versus-one overlap to score.
Hanrahan landed the tricky conversion from the left to give Munster a 10-5 lead and, six minutes from the break, he was lining up a second – unsuccessful – conversion attempt when Zebo finished off a move in the right corner for a 15-5 lead at the break.
The loss of hooker Duncan Casey to a leg injury 10 minutes into the second half will not ease Penney's problems in the No 2 shirt, but Hanrahan was having problems of his own – he missed touch four times in his hour-long appearance.
But Munster were too strong for the Italians, and after Guglielmo Palazzani had closed the gap with a 43rd minute penalty, they wrapped up the win when Ger Slattery touched down at the back of a rolling maul.
Zebre had Andres Van Schalkwyk sin-binned just before Munster's third try for an infringement at the breakdown and before his return Tommy O'Donnell dived over to clinch the bonus point in the 70th minute, while Slattery claimed his second in the closing moments.
Scorers – Munster: S Zebo, G Slattery 2 tries each, T O'Donnell try, JJ Hanrahan pen, con, I Keatley 3 cons. Zebre: T D'Apice try, G Palazzani pen.
Munster: F Jones (A Conway 65); G van den Heever, J Murphy, I Keatley, S Zebo; JJ Hanrahan (D Hurley 60), C Sheridan (D Williams 60); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 68), D Casey (G Slattery 50), BJ Botha (J Ryan 63); D Ryan (S Dougall 68), B Holland; Dave O'Callaghan (Donncha O'Callaghan 18), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.
Zebre: D Berryman; D Odiete (G Bisegni 72), K Ratuvou, R Quartaroli, G Venditti; G Palazzani, B Leonard; A De Marchi (D Ryan 50), R D'Apice (L Giovanchelli 58), D Chistolini (L Leibson 53); M Van Vuren (F Cazzola 75), G Biagi (E Caffini 56); F Cristiano (N Cattina 55), A Van Schalkwyk, S Vunisa.
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU).
Sunday Indo Sport