Simon Zebo hat-trick helps Munster climb back into top four

Winger shows he’s not lost any of his finishing ability in home win over Edinburgh

Munster 34 Edinburgh 20

It's been a frustrating season for Simon Zebo on his return from Paris to Munster but the winger showed he's not lost any of his finishing ability as he ran in a hat-trick at Thomond Park despite barely touching the ball half a dozen times.

Munster might not be firing on all cylinders this season but they know how to carve out results and when Edinburgh, chasing the game all evening, got within seven points nine minutes from the end, Mike Blair's men must have fancied ending their seven-year losing run in Limerick and give impetus to their URC hopes.

But Munster, with skipper Jack O’Donoghue leading the way, had other ideas and Zebo completed his hat-trick to ensure the Scots left Ireland for the second week running without a point.


Chris Cloete was the dominant figure in the opening quarter as Munster raced into a 13-0 lead against an Edinburgh side who just couldn’t get their hands on the ball.

And when the Scots did manage to get possession Cloete, apparently set to follow Johann van Graan to Bath in the summer, was superb at the breakdown, twice winning turnover penalties in midfield which led to scores.

Munster hit the front after five minutes when they piled on the pressure after a good penalty to touch down the right by Ben Healy, before Edinburgh flanker Connor Boyle was pinged for not releasing Chris Farrell and Healy converted from close range.

The opening try of the contest came from a similar foundation when a jackal from Cloete inside halfway set up the opportunity following another good kick to touch from Healy and Munster went openside from the lineout with lock Fineen Wycherley timing his run to perfection to bulldoze over.

Tour de force

Healy converted to make it 10-0 and then added another penalty from 45 metres after Cloete won another penalty.

The South African continued his tour de force when he spectacularly lifted and carried Farrell over his head to collect the restart, but Edinburgh finally got into the contest and built the phases and cut the gap to 13-10 before the break thanks to a try from Puma Ramiro Moyano and the boot of his compatriot Emiliano Boffelli.

But then a high tackle by centre James Lang on Zebo saw Healy go down the left touchline and with an advantage being played after the maul was pulled down, Munster created enough of an overlap for deft hands from Healy to send Zebo over for his 65th try for the province, with the conversion pushing the lead out to 20-10 at the break.

It was a much tighter affair in the third quarter and Edinburgh reduced the margin to seven when Boffelli slotted a penalty from 30 metres after 50 minutes.

While Edinburgh threatened down the left, Munster dealt with the danger and countered with Dan Goggin and Mike Haley cutting superb lines as they broke diagonally from inside halfway and Zebo was on hand to supply the finish in the left corner, with Healy converting to make it 27-13 going into the final quarter.

Edinburgh responded but when they opted to tap a penalty in front of the posts Dave Kilcoyne’s last act on his 200th appearance for Munster was to dislodge the ball from his opposite loosehead Boan Venter.

Edinburgh got a lifeline though nine minutes from time when Henry Pyrgos sniped over under the posts, with Boffelli converting to leave it 27-20.

But that was as close as they got and Zebo completed his hat-trick and wrapped up the bonus point three minutes from time when Healy sent him over in the left corner before adding the extras.

MUNSTER: M Haley; C Nash, C Farrell, D Goggin, S Zebo; B Healy, C Casey; D Kilcoyne, D Barron, S Archer; J Kleyn, F Wycherley; J O'Donoghue, C Cloete, G Coombes.

Replacements: N Scannell for Barron, J Hodnett for Cloete, J Ryan for Archer (all 55 mins), J Loughman for Kilcoyne (66), A Kendellen for Kleyn, N Cronin for Casey (71), S Daly for Nash (73).

EDINBURGH: H Immelman; R Moyano, M Bennett, J Lang, E Boffelli; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott; B Venter, A McBurney, L Atalifo; M Sykes, G Young; N Haining, C Boyle, B Muncaster.

Replacements: M Kunavula for Muncaster (54 mins), D Cherry for McBurney (55), C Dean for Bennett, J Armstrong for Atalifo (60), P Phillips for Young, H Pyrgos for Vellacott (66), S Grahamslaw for Venter (76), C Savala for Boffelli (79).

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales).