Munster maul Zebre for first win

MATCH REPORT: Munster's superior maul delivered their opening win of the season as they overcame Zebre Parma 21-5 in their United Rugby Championship Round Three match at Musgrave Park.

Ben Healy converted tries from Niall Scannell (two) and Keynan Knox to give Graham Rowntree's side a 21-0 half-time lead.

Zebre suffered a couple of injury blows and had lock Gabriele Venditti sin-binned.

Replacement Lorenzo Pani's opportunist 44th-minute effort got the Italians off the mark, but a sloppy closing half an hour saw Munster miss out on the bonus point.

There was some doubt about the grounding of hooker Scannell's eighth-minute opener, but a lengthy TMO review went Munster's way and Healy added the conversion.

It came from a well-driven line-out maul and good initial work before that from Patrick Campbell, on a kick chase, and Tadhg Beirne at the breakdown.

Zebre captain Enrico Lucchin and Pierre Bruno provided the running threat before prop Juan Pittinari knocked on in a try-scoring position.

The visitors' line-out also misfired badly, with Giampietro Ribaldi guilty of two crooked throws and they had nine lost line-outs before the break. Munster's execution was much cleaner.

Prop Knox was unstoppable from a few metres out, doubling the hosts' lead to 14 points in the 17th minute.

Jack O'Donoghue had a subsequent score ruled out, for clear separation on this occasion, but Zebre lost Venditti to the bin for a cynical offside.

Scannell crashed over from the resulting line-out drive in the 24th minute, with the visitors having to reshuffle their backline due to injuries picked up by centres Erich Cronje and Lucchin.

Fabio Roselli's men sparked into life early in the second half, Jacopo Trulla's chip kick grounded by onrushing youngster Pani with the bounce having beaten Healy.

Even Ireland duo Conor Murray and Joey Carbery, who were both sprung from the bench, could not get Munster firing again, but the biggest cheer came when 18-year-old back-rower Ruadhan Quinn came on to become the hosts' youngest player of the professional era.

Player of the Match

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony was key to their line-out supremacy, particularly in pressurising Zebre errors at the set-piece. He also picked up some important turnovers as his side opened their win account for 2022-23.

Play of the match

There was little in the way of free-flowing attacking rugby, but Zebre's only score was the pick of the tries. Tiff Eden flung a long pass wide for Trullo to break forward, deftly clip the ball over the top and the 20-year-old Pani won the race to touch it down.

The scorers

For MunsterTries: Scannell 2, Knox Cons: Healy 3

For ZebreTry: Pani

Teams:

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Conor Phillips, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Patrick Campbell, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O'Sullivan, 7 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 6 Jack O'Donoghue, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne Replacements: 16 Scott Buckley, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Edwin Edogbo, 20 Ruadhan Quinn, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Rory Scannell.

Zebre: 15 Richard Kriel, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Erich Cronjé, 12 Enrico Lucchin (captain), 11 Jacopo Trulla, 10 Tiff Eden, 9 Alessandro Fusco, 8 Taina Fox-Matamua, 7 MJ Pelser, 6 Davide Ruggeri, 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 Gabriele Venditti, 3 Ion Neculai, 2 Giampietro Ribaldi, 1 Juan Pitinari Replacements: 16 Luca Bigi, 17 Luca Rizzoli, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Iacopo Bianchi, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Franco Smith Jr, 23 Lorenzo Pani.

Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa) Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland) & Robbie Jenkinson (Ireland) TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)

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