— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) April 12, 2019
The home side got off to the better start with Tomasso Allan slotting over an early penalty to settle the nerves. After seven minutes Benetton were 10-0 up as Ratuva Tavuyarto broke the line before Tomasso Benvenuti touched down. Allan kicked the extras.
Munster responded immediately through Rhys Marshall after he received a lovely pass from scrum-half Alby Mathewson. JJ Hanrahan knocked over the conversion to make it 10-7.
After 12 minutes the men in red were ahead as Dan Goggin scored under the posts and Hanrahan again slotted home the extra two to leave it at 14-10 to the away side.
The game slowed down a little after the energetic start, with Allan kicking two penalties and Hanrahan scoring one to make it 17-16 to Munster come the 25th minute.
However, Benetton went into half-time with the lead with Jayden Hayward breaking away and Monty Ioane getting in for the try on 38 minutes. Allan couldn’t push them ahead any further as he missed his conversion to leave the score at 21-17 come the whistle.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) April 12, 2019
Benetton started the second-half where they left off. They were awarded a penalty try four minutes into the half after Darren Sweetnam deliberately knocked-on the ball. Sweetnam was sent to the bin for 10 minutes following the incident.
Although they had the man advantage the hosts failed to capitalise, as Munster scored a penalty five minutes later through Hanrahan to make it 28-20.
Benvenuti was then shown yellow for the home side for a high tackle on Stephen Archer in the 52nd minute.
Munster took full advantage with Hanrahan kicking another penalty two minutes later before Shane Daly scored in the corner to pull them level. Hanrahan’s perfect kick meant they went into the lead once more at 30-28 with a quarter of the match remaining.
Hanrahan was at the thick of things again when he broke through the Benetton defence and Alby Mathewson was on hand to finish the move. A seventh kick from seven for man of the match Hanrahan stretched the lead out to 37-28.
After @Munsterrugby's win away at @BenettonRugby, fly-half JJ Hanrahan is presented with the Guinness PRO14 man of the match award by Massimo Bauce, on behalf of Guinness ?#BENvMUN #GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/iKclxflAAo
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 12, 2019
The final 12 minutes where spent in the Munster half as Benetton went in search of a score, but they were unable to break through as it finished 37-28.
The win puts Munster first in Conference A with one game to go in the regular season having played a game more than second-placed Glasgow. It also gives the side another confidence boost before their crunch clash with Saracens in the Champions Cup semi-finals next weekend. On the other hand, the loss means Benetton head into the final round of fixtures a point ahead of Edinburgh in Conference B as they hope to secure the last play-off spot in the conference.
Munster confirm Zebo signing
This co-funded contract will see Munster’s all-time record try-scorer return from Racing 92 and line out for his home club where he made 144 appearances and scored 60 tries between 2010 and 2018.
In his third season with the Top 14 side, the 31-year-old has played 55 times and scored 21 tries to date.
Head Coach Johann van Graan said, “The opportunity to bring Simon back to Munster came about in early April following a final review of our squad’s budgetary position for season-end and with assistance from the IRFU to support what we believe is a really good deal for Munster and Irish Rugby.
“Simon’s desire to return to Ireland and play with his home club is illustrated by his willingness to sign at a level below his market value elsewhere. This has made bringing the province’s all-time leading try-scorer back home, possible.”
Simon Zebo said, “I am thrilled and honoured to be coming back home to play for Munster. My family and I have been so lucky to have enjoyed three incredible years with Racing 92 in Paris and I cannot thank the team there enough, I really have made friends for life and take with me some brilliant memories.
“However, as everyone knows, Munster holds a very special place in my heart and I’ve always said that I wanted to play for them and potentially Ireland again, so when this opportunity arose the lure of being close to home, family and friends and Munster fans, it outweighed all other options. I cannot wait to get back to the HPC with the team and hopefully a packed Thomond Park.”
Ulster Rugby agree to release Coetzee early
Marcell Coetzee has played his last game for Ulster Rugby.
With back-row, Marcell Coetzee, currently side-lined with a hamstring injury, Ulster Rugby has agreed terms which will see the player released from the club at the end of this month, ahead of his planned departure at the conclusion of the 2020/21 season.
Given the need for several weeks of rehabilitation following the injury sustained by Coetzee in last month’s Guinness PRO14 fixture against Leinster, Ulster Rugby and the player have reached a mutual agreement to part ways on Friday 30 April.
Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment, Bryn Cunningham, said: “We have come to an agreement that will allow Marcell the time and space required to continue his rehab.
Lowry retained at 10 for Ulster v Zebre
21-year-old, Cormac Izuchukwu will make his first start for the Ulster men as he is named in the second row alongside Kieran Treadwell. Marty Moore comes back into the starting front row at tighthead, with Eric O’Sullivan and John Andrew retaining their starting berths at loosehead and hooker. Jordi Murphy will captain the side at openside flanker, with Sean Reidy and David McCann being retained at blindside and Number Eight.
A youthful back line sees Ethan McIlroy coming into the back three at full-back, with Rob Lyttle on the left wing and Robert Baloucoune returning on the right. Stewart Moore and James Hume will make up the midfield pairing, while John Cooney and Michael Lowry are named at half-back.
Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor and Matty Rea are the forward reinforcements, with David Shanahan, Ian Madigan and Ben Moxham providing the back line options on the bench.
Ulster team to play Zebre Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 16, Friday 19 March at Kingspan Stadium (kick-off 8.15pm, live on Premier Sports / eir Sport):
(15-9) Ethan McIlroy, Robert Baloucoune, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Rob Lyttle, Michael Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Eric O’Sullivan, John Andrew, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell, Sean Reidy, Jordy Murphy (Capt.), David McCann.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, David Shanahan, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.