Munster flanker Chris Cloete in action against Zebre in the Guinness Pro14 in Italy on Friday night
MUNSTER had to sweat before closing out a 28-0 bonus point victory over 14-man Zebre in their Guinness Pro14 clash in Italy on Friday night.
A much-improved second half display from Johann van Graan's side saw Munster score three tries to finally seal a maximum five point haul against a gritty Zebre side who had winger Pierre Bruno red-carded after just 10 minutes.
Munster's four tries were scored by Limerick winger Calvin Nash in the opening half, and three more in the second 40 minutes, from centre Rory Scannell, Man of the Match JJ Hanrahan and finally returned winger Darren Sweetnam.
The hugely influential Hanrahan also converted all four tries.
Munster were forced into a late change just before kick-off as winger Shane Daly pulled up in the warm-up. He was replaced in the starting team by Darren Sweetnam.
Munster Academy out-half Jake Flannery came onto the bench for the game and the Shannon clubman was introduced as a second half replacement to make his Guinness Pro14 debut
Visitors Munster led 7-0 at half-time in a very disappointing, disjointed opening 40 minutes.
After Zebre missed an early opportunity to take the lead through a Pierre Bruno penalty, the winger was red-carded in the 10th minute.
Bruno was sent off for leading with his forearm into Munster flanker Chris Cloete's neck and chin area.
Munster took the lead in the 12th minute when alert winger Calvin Nash won the race to the touchdown from Craig Casey's well-placed grubber kick in behind the Zebre defence.
Out-half JJ Hanrahan landed the conversion, his 17th successful kick at goal in succession.
Zebre, despite being down a player, enjoyed 67% possession and 75% territory in that opening half against a misfiring Munster side.
Both teams observed a Minute's silence before kick-off as a mark of respect for former Munster CEO Garrett Fitzgerald who passed away last week.
Munster's improved second half showing proved too much for the Italians who visibly tired.
The two sides have now met on 15 previous occasions with Munster winning them all.</p
Next up for Munster is a crucial home fixture against the Scarlets at Thomond Park on Saturday, February 29.
ZEBRE: Junior Laloifi, Paula Balekana, Jamie Elliott, Tommaso Boni (Capt), Pierre Bruno, Francois Brummer, Joshua Renton; Daniele Rimepelli, Massimo Cecilian, Eduardo Bello, Mick Kearney, Ian Nagle, Maxime Mbandà, Jimmy Tuivaiti, Renato Giammarioli. Replacements: Matteo Luccardi, Riccardo Burgnara, Matteo Nocera, Leonard Krumov, George Biagi, Nicolò Casilio, Pescetto Paolo, Enrico Lucchin.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, Craig Casey; James Cronin, Niall Scannell (Capt), John Ryan; Fineen Wycherley, Darren O'Shea; Arno Botha, Chris Cloete, Jack O'Sullivan.
Replacements: Kevin O'Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Gavin Coombes, Tommy O'Donnell, Neil Cronin, Dan Goggin, Jake Flannery
REFEREE: Dan Jones (Wales)