Conor Murray comes off the bench to help Munster to victory
Ireland international made his much-awaited return on a damp night in Parma
Munster’s Conor Murray came off the bench to help them to a Pro14 victory over Zebre. Photo: Matteo Ciambelli /Inpho
Zebre 7 Munster 32
Ireland internationals Conor Murray and Chris Farrell made an impact off the replacements bench as Munster secured a bonus point win at Zebre.
Murray and Farrell were introduced in the 51st minute and after Renato Giammarioli brought Zebre back into the game, Munster needed the experience of their Ireland internationals in Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Ronan O’Mahony scored on his return while Rory Scannell secured the bonus point. Fineen Wycherley and Kevin O’Byrne had given Munster a 17-0 lead at the interval.
However Murray stood out and unlocked the opponent’s defence in the dying minutes where he looked sharp after more than five months on the sidelines.
Neil Cronin was the starting scrum-half and he was influential early. He put Arno Botha through a hole in the defence that would eventually lead to Alex Wootton’s try. But that was ruled out for a knock-on.
Wootton had crossed in the 14th minute and Munster only had to wait two more minutes before they would finally get rewarded for their pressure.
O’Byrne threw into a lineout, Botha claimed and Munster rumbled towards the line. They were held up short by a scrambling Zebre rearguard but when the Italians stopped the Munster hooker for the second time, Wycherley was on hand to score under the posts.
Bill Johnston, a late replacement for JJ Hanrahan before kick-off, slotted the extras and he did likewise when O’Byrne scored a deserved try in the 30th minute.
Wycherley had fumbled a lineout previous to that but Zebre failed to clear, Jeremy Loughman plundered his way forward, and after he was taken down Cronin and Mike Haley combined to help O’Byrne score wide on the left.
Johnston’s conversion was brilliant but his penalty just before half-time was even better. Zebre had been penalised for offside and the Munster outhalf scored a massive kick almost from halfway.
It gave Munster a 17-0 lead at half-time and Murray and Farrell came on to add an extra zip but Zebre almost piled over to score in the 62nd minute. They were held up and after a fight erupted Munster couldn’t get clear the ball so Giammarioli dived over to score.
Zebre only trailed 17-7 but Munster forced a penalty and Scannell stepped up to score. Murray was influential again when O’Mahony scored his try in the 73rd minute. The Munster scrum-half forced a hurried clearance and O’Mahony profited.
And with just one minute left Murray’s pass put Scannell through for the bonus point try.
Scorers: Zebre – Try: R Giammarioli; Conversion: F Brummer. Munster – Tries: F Wycherley, K O’Byrne, R O’Mahony, R Scannell; Conversions: B Johnston (2), Scannell; Penalties: B Johnston, Scannell.
ZEBRE: G Di Giulio; P Balekana, G Bisegni, T Boni, J Elliott; F Brummer, R Raffaele; C Ah-Nau, M Ceciliani, D Chistolini; L Krumov, D Sisi; J Tuivaiti, M Mbandà, G Licata.
Replacements: E Bello for Chistolini (15 mins), Chistolini for Bello (25 mins), R Giammarioli for Tuivaiti (25 mins), J Renton for Raffaele (32 mins, blood), C Canna for Di Giulio (32 mins), G Biagi for Mbandà (40 mins), Mbandà for Biagi (49 mins), O Fabiani for Ceciliani (54 mins), D Rimpelli for Ah-Nau (54 mins), Bello for Chistolini (54 mins), Ceciliani for Fabiani (57 mins), Fabiani for Ceciliani (65 mins), Biagi for Giammarioli (73 mins).
MUNSTER: M Haley; R O’Mahony; R Scannell, T Bleyendaal A Wootton; B Johnston, N Cronin; J Loughman, K O’Byrne, S Archer; F Wycherley, D O’Shea; G Coombes, C Cloete, A Botha.
Replacements: C Murray for Cronin (51 mins), C Farrell for Johnston (51 mins), C Parker for Archer (55 mins), C Oliver for Cloete (59 mins), Archer for Parker (65 mins), S O’Connor for O’Shea (65 mins), B Scott for Loughman (70 mins), M Sherry for O’Byrne (70 mins), J Taute for Wootton (73 mins).
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland).