Munster left it late to secure their try-scoring bonus point against Benetton Treviso as Simon Zebo’s 75th-minute try topped off a 32-7 European Champions Cup win at Thomond Park.
A mostly forgettable first half ended 10-7 in Munster’s favour, BJ Botha burrowing over in the fourth minute and fellow South African Braam Steyn replying with a terrific solo effort on the quarter hour mark.
However, in wet and windy conditions, Treviso’s resolute defence was worn down in the third quarter as Ian Keatley clipped over his second successful penalty and Munster’s captain and man-of-the-match CJ Stander weighed in with his fourth try of the season.
Replacement hooker Duncan Casey and winger Simon Zebo both crossed to the left of the posts, either side of a yellow card for Treviso’s Matteo Muccignat. Zebo’s 40th touchdown saw him go within one of equalling the province’s record try scorer Anthony Horgan.
The home side were quick out of the blocks, Donnacha Ryan’s lineout win on the 22-metre line setting up a purposeful maul. Conor Murray almost sniped over from close range before prop Botha, whose contract has been extended to next June, got in under James Ambrosini’s tackle.
Keatley converted and an eighth-minute pick and go effort saw Botha go close to grabbing his second try. The video replay showed he lost control of the ball as he lunged for the line, and Treviso, with the wind advantage, gradually gained a foothold in the game.
The Italians’ number 8 Steyn showed them the way when he charged down Keatley’s attempted clearance kick in the 16th minute, dribbling through to the left of the posts before acrobatically dotting down before the ball went dead. Jayden Hayward levelled with the conversion.
Three minutes later, Keatley responded off the kicking tee but the hosts’ play was pockmarked by individual errors and a general lack of penetration with the difficult conditions making for a defence-dominated half.
Treviso lost their talismanic captain Alessanndro Zanni to concussion, and Munster’s Mike Sherry suffered a knee injury as the Ireland-capped hooker’s first European appearance in over two years was unfortunately cut short.
The conditions worsened on the restart with the rain teeming down. Keatley’s 48th-minute place-kick was followed by Stander’s unconverted try seven minutes later, the Irish-qualified number 8 outmuscling Matteo Zanusso and Ludovico Nitoglia from a couple of metres out.
Munster went the direct route again for their third try, Ryan winning a lineout near the left corner and Casey piling over on the end of a well-executed forward drive.
Keatley converted and further pressure from the home pack saw Muccignat binned for not rolling away. Barely a minute later, Zebo was handed a simple finish and Keatley added the extras for a 25-point winning margin.