Simon Zebo and Gavin Coombes grab two tries each for Munster

Reds were impressive in opening United Rugby Championship clash at Thomond Park
Simon Zebo and Gavin Coombes grab two tries each for Munster

Munster's Simon Zebo runs in a try at Thomond Park. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Munster 42 Cell C Sharks 17 

THE returning Simon Zebo was Munster’s star man as he scored two tries on his return in their victory over the Cell C Sharks in the opening United Rugby Championship fixture at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.

Sharks full-back Curwin Bosch had a chance to give his side an early lead but he hooked his 30m penalty attempt to the left of the uprights in the 3rd minute.

Munster supporters had flocked to Thomond in order to see Zebo in action and it took just five minutes for the returning fan favourite to set the place alight when he gathered a loose Sharks pass just outside his own 22 and won a foot race down the left wing to score his 61st Munster try, and first since his return from Paris.

The Sharks had been guilty of persistent infringements early on, and after the referee had given them their final warning the next man to concede a penalty was former Munster tighthead Thomas du Toit in the 28th minute, and he duly spent the next 10 minutes in the sin-bin, with Joey Carbery kicking the resultant penalty to increase Munster’s lead to 8-0.

Bosch did get the South African side on the board with a 31st minute penalty from straight in front of the Munster posts, but Munster made their numerical advantage count with a second try in the 34th minute. The score came from an attacking 5m scrum with Craig Casey snipping from the base, when he threw a quick dummy to buy himself half a second, before diving over in the right corner.

Munster managed to score their third try right on the half time whistle with no. 8 Gavin Coombes doing his usual party piece by driving over from close range, and Carbery’s conversion made it 20-3 at the break.

Munster's Craig Casey celebrates after scoring a try with Andrew Conway and Gavin Coombes. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Munster's Craig Casey celebrates after scoring a try with Andrew Conway and Gavin Coombes. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Coombes scored another try from a close-in drive in the 51st minute to secure the bonus point with half an hour to spare, which gave Johann van Graan the opportunity to start emptying his bench.

Sharks out-half Boeta Chamberlain managed to score his side's first ever try in the URC when he intercepted Joey Carbery’s long looping pass in the 57th minute before racing away and scoring under the posts.

While Zebo’s tries got the biggest cheers of the night they were closely rivalled by the welcome given to the fit-again second-row RG Snyman, who made his return after a year out in the 65th minute.

Replacement 10 Ben Healy then banged over a penalty from inside his own half in the 68th minute, before the Sharks scored a wonderful try in the 70th minute when replacement Jeremy Ward offloaded brilliantly to winger Yaw Penxe who finished brilliantly in the left corner.

However, there was still time for Munster to make absolutely sure down the other end with Chris Cloete crashing over after relentless pressure, before Zebo dotted down in the corner at the end after a kick through by Dan Goggin, to end the night on a high for Munster.

Scorers for Munster: Carbery (1 pen, 2 cons), Healy (1 pen, 1 con), Coombes, Zebo (2 tries each), Casey, Cloete (1 try each).

Bulls: Bosch (1 pen, 2 cons), Chamberlain, Penxe (1 try each) 

MUNSTER: Haley; Conway, Goggin, R. Scannell, Zebo; Carbery, Casey; Kilcoyne, N. Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Wycherley; O’Mahony (c), O’Donoghue, Coombes.

Subs: Knox and Ahern for Ryan and Kleyn (53), Loughman, Barron and Cloete for Kilcoyne, N. Scannell and O’Donoghue (59), Healy for Carbery (63), Snyman for Wycherley (65), Osborne for Casey (72).

SHARKS: Bosch; Penxe, Kok, Louw, Abrahams; Chamberlain, Pienaar; Mona, Van Vuuren, Du Toit; Roets, Grobler; Richardson, Venter, Buthelezi (c).

Subs: K. Mchunu for Venter (34), Venter for K. Mchunu (38), N. Mchunu for Mona (40), van Heerden for Roets (49), Mbatha for Van Vuuren (63), Ward for Kok (65), Gumede and Nohamba for Pienaar and Louw (72).

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)

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