Van Graan kicks off Munster chapter with a win
PRO14 REPORT: Alex Wootton crossed for a double as Munster were made to fight hard against Zebre before claiming a first win of Johann van Graan's reign.
Rory Scannell and James Hart both crossed in the first half for Munster as they appeared to be cruising to a Pro14 victory that would help them keep pace with Glasgow Warriors in Conference A.
But after both Robin Copeland and Sam Arnold were sent to the sin bin, Zebre – who beat Ulster in round five – came roaring back as Giulio Bisegni and skipper Jacopo Sarto both crossed.
However, after the break Munster dominated and when restored to their full complement put the game to bed when Wootton sped clear for two tries.
That takes the young winger to nine tries for the Pro14 season already, level with Cheetahs flyer Makazole Mapimpi at the top of the standings.
That secured the bonus point for van Graan – who only arrived in Limerick this week to take over from Rassie Erasmus meaning coaches Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery took charge of most of the preparations.
Simon Zebo laid on the second for Wootton with a fantastic break and pass that hit his wing in stride but the Ireland star then went off with what looked like a shoulder injury.
Giovanbattista Venditti did cross late on for the Italians but they could not secure a losing bonus point as it ended 36-19 to the Irish province – Calvin Nash scoring his first Munster try with the final play of the game.
Tries: Bisegni, Sarto, Venditti
Cons: Palazzani 2
Tries: Scannell, Hart, Wootton 2, Nash
Cons: Hanrahan 4
Yellow cards: Robin Copeland (Munster, 31); Sam Arnold (Munster, 38)
Zebre: 15 Ciaran Gaffney, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Faialaga Afamasaga, 11 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 10 Maicol Azzolini, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Johan Meyer, 6 Jacopo Sarto (captain), 5 Leonard Krumov, 4 James Tucker, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Luhandre Luus, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 Davide Fragnito, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Riccardo Raffaele, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Valerio Bernabò.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Sam Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 James Hart, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Liam O’Connor.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Brian Scott, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Sean O’Connor, 21 Jack Stafford, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Calvin Nash.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Keith Allen (Scotland), Vincenzo Scipani (Italy)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)