Grobler gets a run in stroll for Munster
Munster 33 Zebre 5
Gerbrandt Grobler, the South African who served a two-year ban for doping, was given a rousing reception when he came off the bench to make his controversial Munster debut at Thomond Park last night.
The 26-year old was introduced just after Munster secured the bonus point going into the final quarter.
An official attendance of 13,412 was declared by Munster but with that number including all season ticket holders, it's estimated that the crowd actually at the game was in the region of 5,000.
Munster had to soak up enormous pressure from Zebre in the opening quarter as the Italians took them on up front and drove through the phases.
But the Munster defence held firm and even though Zebre had 64 per cent of the possession after 23 minutes, the tie remained scoreless.
A soft penalty in midfield when the backline moved too early off a lineout proved costly for Michael Bradley's side and Munster made them pay dearly.
JJ Hanrahan dispatched the penalty to the left corner and while the initial foray was held, Munster recycled and scrum-half Duncan Williams crowned his 150th appearance with a deft pass to Hanrahan. His pass was in turn superbly fed back by Conor Oliver to Sammy Arnold who darted inside the cover to score his fourth try of the campaign after 26 minutes.
Hanrahan was unable to find the target with the difficult conversion from the left wing, but Munster were up and running.
It took a fine tackle by former Connacnt player Ciaran Gaffney to deny Simon Zebo out wide after Hanrahan's quick hands created the opening in midfield.
But Zebre were unable to clear their lines and Munster again made them pay two minutes from the break.
Hanrahan sent a penalty to the right corner and from the lineout Munster got a drive and tighthead Brian Scott spotted a gap to dive over for his first try in 18 appearances.
Hanrahan turned the screw by landing the conversion from the right touchline to give them a 12-0 interval lead.
Zebre enjoyed the better of the exchanges after the restart and deservedly pulled a try back when scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani finished off a 13-phase drive with a try which his half-back partner Serafin Bordoli failed to convert after 54 minutes.
But that score ignited Munster rather than the Italians and they struck inside two minutes when Robin Copeland marked a memorable display with a try after Conor Oliver was stopped just short after 11 phases.
Ian Keatley converted and then created the bonus point try for his fellow replacement Rory Scannell after Zebre had lost a lineout inside their own half. Keatley's conversion made it 26-5.
The rout was completed six minutes from time when Rory Scannell set up Arnold for his second try on a good night for Munster, with Zebo almost snatching one at the death, but the ball ran dead.
With five points in the bag and Grobler's debut likely to take the fizz out of that controversy, Munster will head to Cardiff next weekend in fine fettle.
Scorers - Munster: Arnold, Scott, Copeland, R Scannell tries; Hanrahan, Keatley (3) cons. Zebre: Palazzani try.
Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, D Goggin (R Scannell 52), A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan (I Keatley 52), D Williams (J Poland 59); J Cronin (J Loughman 69), N Scannell (K O'Byrne 59), B Scott (J Ryan 54); J Kleyn (G Grobler, 59), B Holland (capt); J O'Donoghue (D O'Callaghan, 59), C Oliver, R Copeland.
Zebre: C Gaffney; G di Giulio, G Bisegni, F Afamasaga, G Venditti (R Parata 61); S Bordoli (M Azzolini 75), G Palazzani (R Raffaele 57); C Ah-Nau (A de Marchi 61), T d'Apice (L Luus, 57), E Bello (R Tenga 57); D Sisi, G Biagi (capt) (L Krumow, 61); R Giammarioli, J Meyer, J Tuivati (D Minnie 57).
Referee: Ben Whitehouse
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