Munster blank 14-man Zebre in Milan
PRO14 REPORT: Munster ran in three second-half tries to secure a comfortable 28-0 win over Zebre in Milan, as they secured the bonus point late on to keep pace with leaders Edinburgh at the top of Conference B.
Pierre Bruno was the man to see red at Stadio Giovanni Mari, with the wing being sent off after just ten minutes, before Calvin Nash scored the first try of the game two minutes later.
JJ Hanrahan and Rory Scannell touched down after the break to end the game as a contest, before Darren Sweetnam marked his return to the side by securing the crucial five-point win.
The game-changing moment came just ten minutes in as Bruno was shown the red card for a deliberate elbow to the neck of Chris Cloete, as the Italian became the third Zebre man to receive his marching orders this season.
Munster rubbed salt into the wounds less than two minutes after Bruno’s dismissal, with Nash pouncing on a clever box kick from Chris Casey to score as he beat Josh Renton in a foot race to the ball.
After the opening score it looked likely to be one-way traffic for the rest of the game, but to their credit the hosts dug deep to keep Munster to just one score at the break, and looked just as likely to be the next team on the scoresheet.
The match in Milan was Niall Scannell’s first as Munster captain, but the hooker’s night was cut short midway through the first period, as he had to withdraw through injury.
Zebre’s resistance eventually cracked 12 minutes after the break as Hanrahan profited from some quick Munster ball around the hosts tryline to bundle over for his first try of the Pro14 season, before adding the extras himself.
The visitors then began to turn the screw as the game wore on, and Hanrahan turned from scorer to provider for his side’s third, as his floating pass out to the right wing found Rory Scannell who touched down.
Munster’s pressure was relentless as they went in search of the bonus-point, and they finally got their wish with just seven minutes remaining as Sweetnam touched down to mark the perfect return from his hamstring injury.
Neat play by Jeremy Boughman and Kevin O’Byrne in the centre of the park saw Hanrahan given the time to launch a ball over to the wing, who touched down in the corner.
Zebre rallied as the seconds counted down in search of some points, but Munster’s rear guard stood up to the test and repelled the Italian’s attacks as the hooter blew to keep their perfect defensive performance intact.
Play of the Day
This one has to be Munster’s fourth. With the visitors chasing the crucial bonus-point try we started to see all the flicks and tricks, with Loughman and O’Byrne both showing off their quick hands.
The ball then reached Hanrahan, who capped off a magnificent performance by looping a ball out to Sweetnam to touch down.
Man of the Match
Hanrahan deservedly takes the plaudits in this one, the flyhalf seemed to be instrumental in everything that Munster did well in Milan, as well as getting on the scoresheet himself.
As well as his prowess in open play, the 27-year-old also made it 20 consecutive successful kicks at goal in the Pro14 with another flawless performance with the boot.
For Zebre: None
Tries: Nash, Hanrahan, Scannell, Sweetnam
Cons: Hanrahan 4
Red card: Pierre Bruno (Zebre, 9)
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 Jamie Elliott, 12 Tommaso Boni (captain), 11 Pierre Bruno, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Jimmy Tuivaiti, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Daniele Rimepelli.
Replacements: 16 Matteo Luccardi, 17 Riccardo Burgnara, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 George Biagi, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Pescetto Paolo, 23 Enrico Lucchin.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Gavin Coombes, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Darren Sweetnam.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino (Italy), Rhys Jones (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)