A valuable away bonus point win marked the start of the tenure of Johann van Graan albeit he took a backseat this week since he only arrived to take up his new position on Monday. The game also provided an opportunity for some of the Academy lads during the international window. It was great to see two of them, Jack Stafford and Calvin Nash combine well to score the final try of the game – a memorable game for them.
The excellent lineout performance on their own and on the opposition throw was another highlight but the team will rue their discipline which led to two yellow cards and three tries conceded. Some inaccuracies also cost them some more scores, Alex Wootton could have added to his try count for this season if he had managed to finish off more of the opportunities which came his way but he did take his brace superbly.
How many times how we heard the commentator’s curse as they anticipate a penalty being converted or a clear round in the showjumping? Even in the video highlights below Mark Robson can be heard complimenting the Zebre defence just before Nash scores. Earlier in the game he had been praising JJ Hanrahan who had scored 7 from 7 in the last game but he missed one kick while a second came off the post this week. In fairness it must be hard to be a commentator and have to keep talking especially through times when there is a stoppage but there are some old chestnuts they like to keep rolling out including Darren Sweetnam’s hurling prowess or Alex Wootton hailing from Macclesfield.
A strong scrum won Munster a penalty in the 8th minute which was successfully kicked to put Munster onto the scoreboard 0-3.
Sam Arnold followed up his super-sub performance from the Dragons game to take advantage of Chris Farrell’s call-up to Ireland. He did catch the eye including this big tackle captured by Inpho photography.
A stolen lineout and pass to Alex set him free down the wing. His kick ahead was carried into touch by the Zebre player yielding Munster a 5m scrum. The pack took it up before they released the backline, JJ finding Rory who raced in to score the first try.
Stephen Archer had to go off temporarily for a blood injury and was replaced by Brian Scott. He was the grateful beneficiary of a mis-thrown lineout in the Zebre 22. He passed to Rhys Marshall who charged forward getting to within a few metres of the line. The pack piled in before James Hart on his first start for Munster darted to the line. It looked like the defence would keep him out but he was driven over by Kleyn and others to score the second try and put Munster into a healthy 0-17 lead.
However a few minutes later Robin Copeland was sinbinned as he played a ball at the feet of the Zebre scrumhalf. They opted for the scrum when they had the man advantage and after stretching Munster through the phases their centre Bisegni burst through to score which was converted.
Munster’s indiscipline was to result in a second binning before half time, on this occasion against Sam Arnold (deemed to be offside) after the referee had issued a formal warning to captain Billy Holland. Zebre went for the jugular and a change in direction caught Munster short as Sarto scored and Palazzani converted successfully again despite the difficult angle. What a turnaround from 0-17 to 14-17 giving the home side a pep in their step as they left the pitch for half time.
Munster dominated after the break and as they got back to full strength they turned the screw. Alex Wootton had a few opportunities before he popped up on the opposite wing to gather the ball and power through to score. Just minutes later a superb pass by Zebo put him into space at full pace to score his second. Good to have Alex in such form. He may be called upon for the crucial Leicester games as Keith Earls is expected to miss those through injury.
At 14-29 I expected Munster to push on but they got on the wrong side of the referee again and allowed Zebre back into the game. The home side took advantage of the penalties to get into the Munster half and score their third try after 68 minutes through Venditti.
An injury to Simon Zebo saw Bill Johnson come on at 10 for the final minutes with JJ moving to full back. Calvin Nash had replaced Wootton earlier and it was he who got on the end of a pass from fellow Academy player Jack Stafford to score the fifth try for Munster after good pressure by Munster. A successful conversion by JJ was the final action of the game.
The match highlights are on YouTube but do not include the superb break by Rhys Marshall early in the game when he pounced on a mis-throw and charged upfield. He almost got to the line before the defence got to him. Rhys also put in some delicate offloads which helped keep the tempo up and the game free flowing.
Zebre: Ciaran Gaffney; Pierre Bruno, Giulio Bisegni, Faialaga Afamasaga, Gio D’Onofrio; Maicol Azzolini, Guglielmo Palazzani; Cruze Ah-Nau, Luhandre Luus (Oliviero Fabiaini ’41), Eduardo Bello; James Tucker, Leonard Krumov; Jacopo Sarto, Johan Meyer, Derick Minnie (Maxime Mbanda ’43).
Munster: Simon Zebo (Bill Johnston ’76); Darren Sweetnam, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton (Calvin Nash ’67); JJ Hanrahan, James Hart (Jack Stafford ’76); Liam O’Connor (Brian Scott ’67), Rhys Marshall (Kevin O’Byrne ’63), Stephen Archer (Brian Scott ’21-’27, Ciaran Parker ‘78); Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (Darren O’Shea ’63’; Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete (Sean O’Connor ’75), Robin Copeland.
Congrats to man of the match Chris Cloete on his second appearance for Munster. It was the first time those of us who did not make it to the untelevised Dragons game got to see him in action and it was good to see what he adds to the competitive backrow options for Munster.
Stats from ESPN are available here.
It was nice to catch up with my MRSC Dublin friends to watch the game. Our youngest member Leia made an appearance and the 16 month old was very quiet and was a positive influence on the expletives uttered from time to time when a great opportunity went abegging. As I will be attending the next 4 games in person in Cork, Limerick, Leicester and Limerick I won’t be back in again until the game on New Years Day.