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'We're going to miss him as a Munster man' - Simon Zebo shows his class

The Munster fullback produced the most memorable moment of the 20-16 win over Edinburgh.

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

THE CELEBRATION – FOR an assist – said it all about how much Simon Zebo enjoys the game.

The Racing 92-bound fullback produced the most outrageous moment of the match as Munster squeezed past Edinburgh on a 20-16 scoreline, with Zebo’s chip, regather and double skip pass setting up Keith Earls for a vital try.

Simon Zebo leaves the field after the game Simon Zebo bids farewell to Thomond Park. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Earls’ finish was sharp but this score was all about Zebo and his gleeful reaction was characteristic, as he threw his arms into the air and beckoned to the Thomond Park crowd to make some noise, cupping his hands to his ears as they responded.

Though the official attendance was just 10,205 in the Limerick sunshine, Munster’s supporters provided plenty of volume and the chants of ‘Zebo, Zebo, Zebo’ both after that try and the full-time whistle were appreciated by the man in the 15 jersey, who brought his children – Jacob and Sofia – onto the pitch afterwards.

Zebo will hope to have two more outings in red before he departs for France this summer and his creative streak is likely to be important if Munster are to overcome the strength of Leinster in their Guinness Pro14 semi-final on 19 May at the RDS.

But his final appearance at Thomond Park before the move underlined just how much Munster will miss Zebo’s skills next season.

“Very much so,” said Munster head coach Johann van Graan after his side’s win. “I said to the team inside, since I came, the thing we will miss most is his smile and his attitude.

Simon Zebo with his daughter Sofia after the game Zebo with his daughter Sofia after the game. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“He’s his own man and such a fantastic Munster man. He was part of a back three that played really well today, I thought the back three as a unit really did well, but there was one or two moments from Zeebs.

“Firstly, to see that chip and that pass was pretty special. We’re going to miss him as a Munster man.”

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, who has played with Zebo since their school days at Presentation Brothers College in Cork, echoed van Graan’s words.

“What he has is something that I think you’re born with or you can’t really be taught, that kind of killer instinct,” said O’Mahony. It’s certainly hard to replace.

“I’ve played a lot of rugby with him and he brings that little bit extra, that little bit of something special and you saw that today. The performances he can put in, the little magic moments where the game is as good as a stalemate and he makes the difference.

“He’s a special player.”

Simon Zebo with his son Jacob and daughter Sofia in the dressing room after the game Zebo with his son, Jacob, and daughter, Sofia. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Sale Sharks fullback Mike Haley, who has played for the England Saxons but remains Irish-qualified, is on his way to Munster this summer, while current back three players Andrew Conway and Stephen Fitzgerald are also likely to be in the mix for the 15 shirt.

There is little doubt, though, that Munster are losing a key man to Racing, particularly with van Graan being so keen to improve the province’s attacking game next season, which will be the South African’s first full campaign in charge.

“It was a great piece of skill that he pulled off,” said Edinburgh fullback Blair Kinghorn of his opposite number today at Thomond Park.

“He’s a quality player and that’s why he’s playing at high levels. He worked it well and it was a great try in the corner.”

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Murray Kinsella

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