Youthful Munster secure bonus point win away to Zebre

Alex Wootton crosses twice as Johann van Graan watches on from the sidelines

Zebre 19 Munster 36

This was the perfect way for Johann van Graan to ease his way into the top job in Munster, standing back and taking a watching brief as his new charges put a massively understrength Zebre side to the sword.

Jerry Flannery and Felix Jones, the forwards and backs coaches, took the reins for this one, with the South African taking it all in as Munster maintained their 100 per cent record over Zebre with an eleventh straight win over the Italians at Stadio Lanfranchi in Parma.

It was, for the most part, a straightforward win and van Graan will be hoping that they can build on it against Ospreys in Cork next weekend before he gets a first sample of Champions Cup rugby with two tasty encounters against Leicester Tigers.


He won’t have been pleased with Munster’s discipline and they would have been punished by better teams than a Zebre side who were weakened by the November internationals.

A 17-0 lead after 26 minutes was shredded to 17-14 when first Robin Copeland and then the impressive Sam Arnold paid the price as Scottish referee Lloyd Linton lost his patience with Munster's persistent fouling.

Michael Bradley's side, with a few decent scalps already this season, made Munster pay with centre Giulio Bisegni darting over after Galway native Ciaran Gaffney, playing in Italy after being let go by Connacht, was stopped just short.

Zebre captain Jacopo Sarto got their second before the break, with scrumhalf Guglilemo Palazzani converting both to leave just three between them at the interval.

But Munster resumed control once they were restored to 15, and the game and the bonus point was sealed by the 57th minute when Alex Wootton crossed for a brace of tries to take his haul to seven in the competition this season.

He got the first in the right corner after good pressure and then Simon Zebo, who later went off with a knock to a knee, set him up for the bonus point with a superb wide pass.

Zebre gave themselves a chance of a couple of bonus points when winger Giovanbattista Venditti scored 13 minutes from time after some good pressure.

But that was as near as they got and a good day for Munster was sealed when Calvin Nash, one of four academy players in the matchday 23, scored his first try for the province at the death, with JJ Hanrahan converting to make it five kicks from seven.

Zebre - Tries: G Bisegni, J Sarto, G Venditti Cons: G Palazzani (2)

Munster - Tries: A Wootton (2), R Scannell, J Hart, C Nash Cons : JJ Hanrahan (4) Pens: Hanrahan.

Zebre: C Gaffney; P Bruno, G Bisegni, F Afamasaga, G Venditti; M Azzolini, G Palazzani; C Ah-Nau, L Luus, E Bello; J Tucker, L Krumov; J Sarto, J Meyer, D Minnie. Replacements: O Fabiani for Luus (41 mins), M Mbanda for Minnie (43 mins), A De Marchi for Ah-Nau (62 mins), D Fragnito for Tucker (62 mins), G D'Onofrio for Venditti (73 mins).

Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; L O'Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; J O'Donoghue, C Cloete, R Copeland. Replacements: B Scott for Archer (21-27 mins), K O'Byrne for Marshall (63 mins), D O'Shea for Holland (63 mins), C Nash for Wootton (67 mins), B Scott for O'Connor (67 mins), J Stafford for Hart (76 mins), B Johnston for Zebo (76 mins).

Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland).