Tommy Dickson/INPHO Munster's Mike Haley celebrates scoring a try with team-mates.
# Report
Munster forced to dig deep to secure win over Zebre
In the end, they got the bonus point and go into the Champions Cup quarter-final against Edinburgh on the back of another victory.

Munster 31

Zebre 12

John Fallon reports from Thomond Park

THE SCORELINE SUGGESTS the expected easy win for Munster but Johann van Graan’s men were forced to dig deep to carve out this victory.

In the end, they got the bonus point and go into the Champions Cup quarter-final against Edinburgh on the back of another victory after their superior bench saw them through a big test from the Italians.

Zebre deservedly led 12-5 at the interval against a misfiring Munster side who struggled to get into the game and were guilty of basic errors against a team they had beaten in all 13 previous encounters.

Coach Michael Bradley, back at his native province, knew they needed to make a mark early as they tried to end a 10-match losing run in the PRO14 going back to last October.

But with nine Italian internationals back in harness and a good mauling game in operation, they opened up a 12-0 lead by the end of the opening quarter.

Winger James Elliott got over in the left corner on 10 minutes, after they created a good overlap when recycling after out-half Carlo Canna was stopped on the right.

Sloppy handling by full-back Mike Haley gifted Zebre their second try after 19 minutes, when he spilled a grubber by Canna and tighthead prop Roberto Tenga took full advantage to score from close range.

Canna converted but then missed two penalties in the run to the interval and Munster punished them when they crossed in the final play of the half.

A penalty to the left corner was taken by Darren O’Shea and they got the drive for loosehead Jeremy Loughman to score his first Munster try, but Hanrahan was unable to land the touchline conversion.

Johann van Graan started emptying his heavyweight Munster bench in the third quarter as Tyler Bleyendaal, Jean Kleyn and Irish internationals Niall Scannell and John Ryan were drafted in to try rescue the situation.

Munster were again rewarded for going to the left corner with a penalty, with Jack O’Donoghue, making his first start of the season after recovering from a knee injury, took the lineout and then hooker Rhys Marshall got the touchdown after another good drive.

Bleyendaal tied up the game at 12-12 with a superb conversion from the left touchline.

Munster lost flanker Chris Cloete to a yellow card for a shoulder charge, but there was a let-off when scrum-half Guglielmo Palazzani hit the woodwork with the penalty from outside the 22.

Munster hit back when down to 14 men and went ahead for the first time in the game when good hands from Bleyendaal, Rory Scannell and Haley put Darren Sweetnam over in the right corner for his fifth try of the season after 65 minutes.

Bleyendaal narrowly missed the conversion and Munster went into the closing stages 17-12 in front.

They wrapped up the issue and the bonus point on 69 minutes when Niall Scannell scored from another lineout drive, after a good kick and chase by Haley, with Bleyendaal converting to make it 24-12.

Haley completed the comeback with their fifth try at the death.

Munster scorers: Tries: Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall, Darren Sweetnam, Niall Scannell, Mike Haley Conversions: JJ Hanrahan 0 / 1, Tyler Bleyendaal 3 / 4
Zebre scorers: Tries: Jamie Elliott, Roberto Tenga Penalties: Carlo Canna 0 / 2 Conversions: Carlo Canna 1 / 2
Munster: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton (Chris Farrell ’45); JJ Hanrahan (Tyler Bleyendaal ’51), Alby Mathewson (Duncan Williams ’77); Jeremy Loughman (Liam O’Connor ’71), Rhys Marshall (Niall Scannell ’54), Stephen Archer (John Ryan ’54); Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea (Jean Kleyn ’54); Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete (Arno Botha ’68), CJ Stander.
Zebre: Edoardo Padovani (Mattia Bellini ’52); Gabriele Di Giulio, Giulio Bisgeni, Tommaso Boni, Jamie Elliott; Carlo Canna (Francois Brummer ’48), Guglielmo Palazzani (Marcello Violi ’64); Andrea Lovotti (Daniele Rimpelli ’66), Oliviero Fabiani (Luhandre Luus ’52), Roberto Tenga (Marco Cicciolli ’59); David Sisi, George Biagi (Leonard Krumov ’68); Maxime Mbanda, Jimmy Tuivaiti (Apisai Tauyavuca ’77), Renato Giammarioli.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales).

Murray Kinsella and Andy Dunne dissect Ireland’s disappointing Six Nations campaign, and discuss the pros and cons of rugby’s new law proposals in the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:

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