Sport Munster Rugby

Monday 22 January 2018

Munster back on track with record league victory

Munster 47 Zebre 0

Keith Earls makes a break through the Zebre defence (SPORTSFILE)
Keith Earls makes a break through the Zebre defence (SPORTSFILE)
Ronan O'Mahony goes past Giulio Toniolatti to score his side's second try of the game (SPORTSFILE)
Tomás O'Leary is tackled by Johan Meyer and Quintin Geldenhuys (SPORTSFILE)

John Fallon

Conor O'Shea is probably under no illusions about the scale of the task which he faces in Italy but on the day he was appointed he was given a stark reminder as Zebre suffered their third trouncing in Ireland in just over a month.

Zebre, having been hammered 52-0 by Leinster and Ulster 32-0 in the past few weeks, again failed to score and they were not spared by a Munster side who started with 15 players who were all developed in the province.

And to crown it, this was Munster's biggest ever win in the league, a victory which gives them timely momentum as they head to the Aviva Stadium next Saturday night for a showdown with Leinster.

The Italians just had no answer and were on the back foot from the outset as Munster, with Johnny Holland impressing at out-half in only his second ever start.

He landed five from five conversions and would surely have beaten or surpassed Munster's record six in a league game had he not had to go off briefly in the second half for a head injury assessment.

His temporary replacement Ian Keatley was not allowed take place-kicks so Conor Murray stepped forward and scored one from two.

But it was a night for making new records and aside from securing the biggest win in the league, Simon Zebo became Munster's all-time top try scorer.


Zebo, playing at full-back, crossed for two tries in the third quarter, taking his haul to 43 for Munster, two ahead of Anthony Horgan.

He got the first after 48 minutes when he finished in style, going round Zebre full-back Kayle van Zyl out wide after a good move by Tomas O'Leary, Rory Scannell and Darren Sweetnam.

Murray took over the kicking duties after Keatley seemed to pick up a knock and he converted to make it 21-0.

Zebo's second came after Zebre's best spell but Munster turned over the ball in front of their own posts, with Sweetnam making the initial break from deep and Scannell and Ian Keatley were also involved before Zebo came up the middle to race through and score.

It was all one-way traffic in the opening half as Munster built up a 14-0 interval lead despite playing against the strong breeze.

The Italians conceded a dozen penalties and had two men binned in that opening half.

Lock Quintin Geldenhuys binned for killing the ball after 24 minutes and winger Giulio Toniolatti followed him seven minutes later for reckless use of the boot on Tommy O'Donnell, a foul which was called by touch judge Helen O'Reilly, the first female to officiate in a Pro12 game.

Munster's opening try after 12 minutes came from a penalty try following a good drive after a lineout take from Donnacha Ryan.

Holland, who battled back from a serious hamstring injury suffered last season, was full of running added the points and he also converted Munster's second try with a superb kick from the left touchline.

The try came when Munster went wide from a scrum in front of the posts and Ronan O'Mahony finished off the move in style after quick ball through the hands of O'Leary, Holland and Rory Scannell.

Munster did not relent after getting the bonus point and Murray and CJ Stander both came off the bench to score tries, with Munster getting a second penalty try and Zebre finishing a dismal night with 14 men after replacement hooker Bruno Postiglioni was binned eight minutes from time.

The result, coupled with Ulster's defeat to Glasgow, moves Munster up to fourth in the Pro12 standings and gives their play-off hopes a boost.

Munster - S Zebo (Keatley 67); D Sweetnam, K Earls (D Johnston 59), R Scannell, R O'Mahony; J Holland (I Keatley 52-59), T O'Leary (C Murray 49); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 56), N Scannell (M Sherry 56), S Archer (M Sagario 59); D Ryan (D Foley 67), B Holland; D O'Callaghan (CJ Stander 49), T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue.

Zebre - K van Zyl (A de Marchi 73); L Sarto, G Bisegni (U Beyers 40), T Boni, G Toniolatti (M Pratichetti 40); K Haimona (L Burgess 58), G Palazzani; G Roan (B Postiglioni 60), O Fabiani, D Chistolini (P Ceccarelli 49); Q Geldenhuys, V Bernabò (G Koegelenberg 40); J Cook (E Caffini 73), F Ruzza, J Meyer.

Ref - D Phillips (Ireland)

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