Munster scrum-half Neil Cronin said they were made to work much harder for their bonus-point win than the 34-17 victory over Zebre in Parma would suggest.
But Johann van Graan’s men came good after dealing with the initial challenge from the Italians, who were playing their first home league game under new head coach Emiliano Bergamaschi.
“I don’t think the score reflected how tough that game was.
“Zebre really put it up to us for 80 minutes and it took the bounce of the ball to get us over the line,” said Cronin.
His skipper Jack O’Donoghue said they were warned in advance that they would have to dig deep to carve out another win in Parma, so he wasn’t the least surprised that there was an arm-wrestle before they notched their 18th straight win against Zebre.
“I don’t think we started particularly well,” said O’Donoghue.
“In fairness to Zebre they came out of the blocks really strong. But once we grew into the game we found our structure and once we got a few phases together we were able to break them down.
“But look, really pleased to come away with the points at the end of a tough block that we’ve had. So, we’ll take a week off and then we’ll reconvene in ten days’ time.
“Zebre will always come with a very attacking game and it’s always a challenge. But it was a good hit-out for us.
“A lot of changes coming into this week so a lot of lads got an opportunity. I’m really proud of the lads now and looking forward to the next block.”
Josh Wycherley scored the crucial fourth try as an understrength Munster side kept their league challenge on track — while brother Fineen was also among the scorers on a memorable night for the Bantry family, as Munster scored five tries at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Captain O’Donoghue, Dan Goggin and Fineen Wycherley all scored to give Munster an unassailable 22-7 half-time lead.
And there were further efforts from Josh Wycherley and Diarmuid Barron in the second half as Munster cruised to the win.
Zebre – J Laloifi; P Bruno (G Bisegni 67), E Cronjé, E Lucchin, J Trulla; T O’Malley (A Rizzi 51), M Violi (A Fusco 51); P Buonfiglio (A Lovotti 62), O Fabiani (M Ceciliani 62), E Bello (G Zilocchi 49); D Sisi, A Zambonin (L Krumov 49); L Mitchell, I Bianchi, R Giammarioli (P J Leavasa 74).
Munster – M Gallagher; C Nash, L Coombes, D Goggin (C Farrell 49), S Daly; J Flannery (J Crowley 9 temp, 71), N Cronin (E Coughan 73); J Loughman (J Wycherley 56), D Barron (S Buckley 74), K Knox (R Salanoa 56); J Kleyn (T Ahern 67), F Wycherley; J O’Donoghue, J Hodnett (A Kendellen 67), J O’Sullivan.
Ref – C Evans (WRU)