Munster hail Zebo moment of magic
Simon Zebo emerged the toast of Llanelli on Saturday night after his try helped Munster on their way to victory over the Scarlets.
In what was just his fifth senior start for his province, the Corkman illuminated an otherwise dour -- albeit fiercely competed -- Magners League contest with one moment of magic to separate the sides.
He also picked up the Man of the Match award, as well as a ringing endorsement from both coach and captain after the final whistle.
"Simon had an excellent game," said Tony McGahan, who can now look forward to another home semi-final next month.
"He looked dangerous every time he had the ball. He worked extremely hard off the ball to put himself in position to create opportunities.
"His defence was excellent as well, and he showed great skills of anticipation. He will certainly have an important role to play with us."
Zebo's try, when it arrived, owed more to his footballing instinct than any great rugby intuition.
With the scores tied at 6-6 and less than a quarter of the game remaining, the eagle-eyed winger was first to react to a loose ball in midfield, and showed skill and speed in equal measure to dribble his way upfield and over the try line.
"He's really got something to him, hasn't he," remarked captain Denis Leamy, another candidate for Man of the Match.
"He's got such great pace and he's very exciting. We just need to get him the ball, and he can definitely do things with it. He deserved his try. I thought he was excellent."
The win was Munster's seventh successive victory since going down in Treviso in February, and while the match itself was largely unremarkable, the collective impact of more than a few recent Academy graduates was noteworthy.
Overall, McGahan started six players aged 23 or less, and while Zebo earned the plaudits, he wasn't the only one to stand out.
On the opposite flank, 22-year-old Danny Barnes shackled Sean Lamont effectively, while Declan Cusack, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer and Tommy O'Donnell all played their part.
From the bench, Scott Deasy also turned in a polished performance coming on early in the second half for Johne Murphy.
"A lot of our lads are up-and-coming players," added Leamy.
"They may not be household names right now, but I think in the next couple of years they're going to become very big players for Munster, and I think they will be highly rated across the board in Europe as well. Huge credit is due to Tony and the back-room team for developing these guys, and now we're seeing the results of the work that has been done over the last few years."
McGahan was equally pleased with his team's efforts, and labelled their display as one of the most satisfying wins of the season, a fair assertion given how much more experience the Scarlets boasted in their match-day panel.
Few had backed the long-term league leaders to forge a result in the unglamorous surroundings of Llanelli but the Australian averred that he never considered anything less.
"Sometimes we have to take a hit, and that's part of it. But we had full belief in all of our players.
"They are starting to gather a lot of experience now between this season and last, and especially in the last 12 months where guys are getting regular game time.
"Certainly over the whole season, from the Australia game, through the autumn internationals and the Six Nations, and right up until this evening, the performances that the players have put in have reflected the quality that is coming through.
"We have used 52 players in the Magners League this season, and there are about 21 or 22 of those who are still extremely young.
"They have all put their hands up at different times during the year, and they have all played an important role."
Scarlets -- M Stoddart, G North, R King, G Maule (S Williams 68), S Lamont (S Jones 60), R Priestland, T Knoyle (G Davies 70), I Thomas (S Gardiner 68), M Rees (capt) (E Phillips 68), R Thomas (R Jones 77), L Reed, J Turnbull (A Shingler 68), R McCusker, J Edwards, D Lyons.
Munster -- P Warwick; D Barnes, J Murphy (S Deasy 44), L Mafi, S Zebo; D Cusack(S Tuitupou 41), P Stringer(D Williams 68); M Horan (D Hurley 66), M Sherry (D Fogarty 55), S Archer (J Hayes 55); D Ryan, M O'Driscoll; T O'Donnell, N Ronan (A Quinlan 57), D Leamy (capt).
Ref -- A Lewis (Irl).