Champions Cup: Munster thump Wasps as Simon Zebo scores landmark tries

Date published: January 23 2022 - Planet Rugby

Munster were in a rampant mood in their final Champions Cup pool game as they defeated Wasps in a 45-7 bonus-point win at Thomond Park.

Conor Murray, Simon Zebo (two), Jack O’Donoghue, Jeremy Loughman and Rory Scannell’s tries saw them to the five points as they cruise into the last 16.

Wasps’ only try came from Dan Robson as their European campaign ends in Limerick, with concern also for the injured Thomas Young who was carried off.

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Zebo’s 24th European try for the Irish province takes him ahead of Munster legend Anthony Foley on that list.

Last week’s conquering of Toulouse meant injury-hit Wasps still had a shot at reaching the round of 16, while Munster were already through and eyeing up a higher seeding.

Rounding off the pool stages with a convincing fourth victory, Johann van Graan’s side noticeably showed more variety and ambition in attack on the back of some recent criticism of their play.

Munster had some late reshuffling before kick-off, with Loughman and Zebo starting in place of Dave Kilcoyne (ill) and Keith Earls (strain) respectively.

With the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in Ireland, the larger-than-expected 13,047-strong crowd were treated to a strong start from the hosts.

A TMO review ruled out a potential knock-on prior to Murray’s ninth-minute opener, the scrum-half pouncing on the loose ball to score after a terrific initial carry from Gavin Coombes.

Ben Healy converted, tagged on a penalty and then provided a clever chip-kick assist for Zebo to bundle over from close range.

Healy’s conversion made it 17-0, but Robson marked his return from a groin injury with a sharply-finished try. He reached over after a quick tap penalty.

The extras were added by Charlie Atkinson, who was swatted away by Coombes in the build-up to O’Donoghue’s try on the half hour mark. Healy’s boot restored the 17-point gap.

Munster ended the first half with 14 men, number eight Coombes seeing yellow for a series of team penalties. Yet, Wasps were unable to convert the pressure into points.

The sight of Young being stretchered off for a head injury was another blow for an already weakened Wasps, who conceded again five minutes after the restart. Prop Loughman drove over after a maul had done the damage.

Ali Crossdale intercepted to prevent another Munster score, and despite Robson being binned for an early challenge on Murray, the visitors held firm despite some loose kicking from Atkinson and Will Porter.

A trademark Tadhg Beirne turnover ruined a promising Josh Bassett-led attack, before Munster produced a late flourish, profiting from fly-half Atkinson’s sin-binning in the 77th minute.

A sweeping attack ended with Zebo crossing in the left corner, and a fine break by the 31-year-old set up Scannell to stroll over at the death. Replacement Jack Crowley kicked both conversions.