Munster wing Simon Zebo bagged a hat-trick to help his team qualify for the Heineken Cup play-offs after beating Racing Metro 29-6.
Munster wing Simon Zebo bagged a hat-trick of tries to help his team qualify for the Heineken Cup quarter-finals after beating Racing Metro 29-6 at Thomond Park on Sunday.
Needing maximum points to qualify for the play-offs, Munster's bonus-point win means two-time defending champions Leinster bow out of the tournament.
Racing Metro, who had no chance of reaching the last eight, were out to play the spoilers role. And for a small portion of the match, they didn't disappoint – despite losing flank Antoine Batut to a red card in the sixth minute.
The loose forward was given his marching orders immediately by Wayne Barnes after the referee spotted Batut drop his knee into Keith Earls at the bottom of a ruck.
Whilst the French outfit's loss was Munster's gain, 14-man Racing Metro continued to make a game of it and were on the board first thanks to a penalty kick by full-back Gaetan Germain.
Scoreless after 25 minutes, Munster finally hit their straps and crossed for two tries in the space of two minutes.
First, scrum-half Conor Murray powered over after breaking off the back of a rolling maul, before Zebo found himself on the receiving end of a three-man overlap and finished off in the corner. Ian Keatley converted one of the two five-points and Munster fans were slightly more relieved with the 12-3 scoreline.
Germain closed the gap to six points with another penalty kick in the 31st minute, but Munster banked their third try soon after when hooker Mike Sherry crossed the whitewash off a line-out and drive.
Keatley was once again unable to add the extras, but the red army were one more try and forty minutes away from achieving a place in the knock-out stages at half-time (17-6).
Munster were breathing fire in the second half and it was only a matter of time before the all-important fourth try would arrive. And when it did, it was one to behold.
After Doug Howlett was denied earlier by the dead-ball line following a moment of brilliance from the former All Blacks wing, the ball was shifted to Zebo who showed some expert finishing to collect a grubber kick ahead to clinch the vital bonus-point his team required to maintain progress in the competition.
Zebo completed his hat-trick in the 54th minute with another piece of magic to secure the victory and a place in the quarter-finals.
Tries: Murray, Zebo 3, Sherry
Cons: Keatley 2
Yellow card: Paddy Butler (foul play, 80th minute)
For Racing Metro:
Pens: Germain 2
Red card: Batut (foul play, 6th min)
Yellow card: Masi Matadigo (late tackle, 78th min)
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Keith Earls, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Mike Sherry, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Paddy Butler, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Casey Laulala.
Racing Metro: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Julien Jane, 13 Guillaume Bousses, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Sereli Bobo, 10 Olly Barkley, 9 Mathieu Belie, 8 Jacques Cronje, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Antoine Batut, 5 Fabrice METZ, 4 Karim Ghezal, 3 Benjamin Sa, 2 Benjamin Noirot, 1 Julien Brugnaut.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bianchin, 17 Andrea Lo Cicero, 18 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19 Jone Qovu Nailiko, 20 Benjamin Fall, 21 Santiago Dellape, 22 Sebastien Descons, 23 Masi Matadigo,
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)