Simon Zebo scores for Munster. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Zebo too good for Zebre but Munster workmanlike

Munster survived an early scare to record a bonus point win in Musgrave Park.

MUNSTER RETURNED TO the top of the RaboDirect Pro12 with a comprehensive 36-8 win over Zebre in Musgrave Park this evening but it was far from a polished performance from the province.

Indeed, it was Zebre who opened the scoring after 11 minutes, when Giovanbattista Venditti collected Brendon Leonard’s swift switch pass and broke clear near the left touchline, before offloading to Tommaso D’Apice; the Italian hooker touching down to give the visitors a shock 5-0 lead.

However, JJ Hanrahan slotted a penalty just three minutes later to steady Munster nerves and the hosts took the lead for the first time on 26 minutes when Zebo scored after an Ian Keatley-inspired break in the middle.

Zebo grabbed his second of the game six minutes before the half after evading Kameli Ratuvou’s grasp to cross the whitewash over in the right corner.

Hanrahan missed the conversion though, ending a run of 19 successful place-kicks in a row, but Munster were already almost guaranteed the win at 15-5 up at the break.

Just as they had done in the first half, the Italians opened the scoring in the second as a Palazzani penalty reduced the deficit to seven points after just four minutes.

Munster’s resurgence was led by the pack though as the forwards probed their way into Zebre’s 22, but found the visitors trickier to unlock this time.

However, Munster were handed an opportunity to pull clear when, after 62 minutes, Zebre captain Dries van Schalkwyk was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements at the breakdown.

After that, Munster kicked on with tries from Ger Slattery (2) and Tommy O’Donnell to secure a bonus point win.

On a night when the result was more important than the peformance, Donncha O’Callaghan, replacing his namesake Dave, entered the field for the 241st time, becoming Munster’s most capped player.

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