Munster see off gutsy Zebre in high-tempo URC game in Cork

High-risk rugby pays off in abundance in entertaining game that was good value for money

Munster 45 Zebre Parma 29

Champions Munster put victories back to back for the first time in the defence of their URC crown when they saw off a gutsy Zebre Parma side in a high tempo game which produced 11 tries in Cork.

The concession of 29 points at home may cause some concern for the Munster management but they played high-risk rugby which paid off in abundance and could have easily run in another four or five tries.

In the process they maintained their perfect record against the Parma outfit with a 20th win in a row over them, but there were plenty of plaudits too for the visitors who were full value for their fourth try bonus point of the season and were unfortunate not to leave with a second bonus point as they came with a late rally.

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Munster had big performances throughout the park but Mike Haley picked up the man of the match award on his return from being out injured for eight months.

“It’s great to be back out with the lads. I’m tired! I thought we played some great rugby in difficult conditions. It was a very strong wind,” said Haley.

Munster didn’t have it all their own way with the wind behind them in the opening half but they had the bonus point and the win in the bag when they went in leading 33-10 at the end of an entertaining first period.

Zebre Parma recovered from falling 12-0 down in as many minutes to cut the gap to two after 22 minutes, but Munster were much more clinical after that and had five tries from five different scorers on the board by the interval.

They had quality all over the pitch, from the deep runs of Shane Daly to the intricate and incisiveness of centres Antoine Frisch and Alex Nankivell, the quick thinking of Craig Casey at half-back, while up front Gavin Coombes and Alex Kendellen provided the grunt with double World Cup winner RG Snyman displaying some deft touches and perfectly weighted passes to shred the Zebre defence.

Snyman sent Ruadhan Quinn in for his first Munster try in the left corner after six minutes with a neatly delayed pass, before a run from inside his 22 by Daly sent Haley away and the full-back, returning to competitive action after eight months out through injury crowned his 99th appearance – all of them starts – with his 19th try.

Tony Butler marked the week in which he signed his first senior contract with the conversion before Zebre hit back and a patient, 12-phase move ended with Albanian-born tighthead Muhamed Hasa, who has played U-20 for Italy, getting over for his first try for the Parma club. Full-back Geronimo Prisciantelli converted and then cut the gap to 12-10 when he converted a penalty after Quinn was binned for killing the ball.

Munster extended their lead while down a man, Snyman pirouetting from close range to score his second ever Munster try on a night when the man who signed him, current Bath coach Johann van Graan, was watching from the stands.

Butler converted to make it 19-10 and they wrapped up the bonus point six minutes from the break when the hard-working Seán O’Brien scored for the second URC game in a row following a turnover from Kendellen and an excellent pass from Nankivell.

A quick tap and go from Casey set up the fifth try just before the interval with Frisch timing his run well to score and Butler’s fourth conversion making it 33-10 as they turned to face the wind.

Daly had a try scratched for a knock-on but they extended their lead on the hour when Quinn reacted quickness to a reckless long throw from a five-metre defensive lineout by Zebre hooker Luca Bigi, with Butler’s conversion making it 40-15.

But Zebre didn’t give up and replacement scrumhalf Thomas Dominguez scored down the left, with more than a hint of a forward pass from Prisciantelli.

Argentine Prisciantelli then hacked and scored before Zebre secured a deserved bonus point through replacement Dylan de Leeuw as they got the gap back to eleven.

But Munster finished on the front foot and Daly finally got his first try of the season in the final play to wrap up an impressive win.

Scoring sequence: 6 mins: Quinn try, 5-0; 12: Haley try, Butler con 12-0; 20: Hasa try, Prisciantelli con 12-7; 22: Prisciantelli pen 12-10; 26: Snyman try, Butler con 19-10; 34: O’Brien try, Butler con 26-10; 40: Frisch try, Butler con 33-10; Half-time: 33-10; 60: Quinn try, Butler con 40-10; 62: Dominguez try, 40-15; 69: Prisciantelli try and con 40-22; 75: de Leeuw try, Prisciantelli con 40-29; 80: Daly try. Full-time: 45-29.

Munster: M Haley; S O’Brien, A Frisch, A Nankivell, S Daly; T Butler, C Casey; J Wycherley, N Scannell, J Ryan; T Ahern, RG Snyman; R Quinn, A Kendellen (capt), G Coombes. Replacements: E Clarke for N Scanell (51 mins), J Loughman for Wycherley (51), S Archer for Ryan (51), F Wycherley for Snyman (54), E Coughlan for Casey (54), J O’Sullivan for Ahern (60), R Scannell for Frisch (63).

Zebre Parma: G Prisciantelli; S Gregory, L Morisi, D Mazza, S Gesi; T Eden, A Fusco; L Rizzoli, L Bigi, M Hasa; D Sisi, L Krumov; G Ferrari, B Stavile, G Licata (capt). Replacements: J Kaifa for Stavile (54 mins), T Dominguez for Fusco 56, G Ribaldi for Bigi (60), R Genovese for Hasa (62), J Trulla for Eden (62), S Taddei for Rizzoli (68), D de Leeuw for Krumov (68).

Referee: A Jones (Wales)