How Edinburgh Rugby were leapfrogged by Munster as Simon Zebo offers finishing masterclass
Edinburgh’s quest for a first win in Thomond Park since 2014 came up short and they left the Limerick venue without a point as Munster jumped about them in the URC table with a 34-20 win.
Mike Blair’s men were shown an exhibition in finishing as Simon Zebo, who barely touched the ball half a dozen times, ran in a hat-trick to secure a bonus point for the Irish.
Edinburgh were chasing the game for long periods, but set themselves up for a rare win on Irish soil when they cut the gap to seven nine minutes from time, but they were unable to even hang on to the bonus point.
Blair had indicated the need for Edinburgh to lay down an early marker but they found themselves 13-0 adrift in the opening quarter as South African Chris Cloete dominated the breakdown for Munster and it paved the way for lock Fineen Wycherley to get the opening try, with the reliable boot of Ben Healy helping them push away.
Cloete, who is set to follow head coach Johann van Graan to Bath in the summer, continued his tour de force when he spectacularly lifted and carried Farrell over his head to collect the restart, but Edinburgh finally got into the contest and built the phases.
They were rewarded with an excellent try down the right when two of the four players released from the Scottish squad for this one, out-half Blair Kinghorn and Mark Bennett, combined superbly and Puma Ramiro Moyano raced in for his sixth try since his summer move from Toulon. His Argentine team-mate Emiliano Boffelli converted to cut the gap to 13-7 after 24 minutes and they reduced the margin to three just before the break when Munster hooker Diarmuid Barron was penalised for obstructing scrum-half Ben Vellacott and Boffelli kicked the penalty.
But then a high tackle by centre James Lang on Zebo saw Healy go down the left touchline and with an advantage being played after the maul was pulled down, Munster created enough of an overlap for deft hands from Healy to send Zebo over for his 65th try for the province, with the conversion pushing the lead out to 20-10 at the break.
It was a much tighter affair in the third quarter, with Edinburgh taking Munster on up front and they reduced the margin to seven when Boffelli slotted a penalty from 30 metres after 50 minutes.
The game hung in the balance at that stage as both sides started to empty their benches and while Edinburgh threatened down the left, Munster dealt with the danger and countered with Dan Goggin and Mike Haley cutting superb lines as they broke diagonally from inside halfway and Zebo was on hand to supply the finished in the left corner, with Healy converting to make it 27-13 going into the final quarter of a good contest.
Edinburgh responded but when they opted to tap a penalty in front of the posts Dave Kilcoyne’s last act on his 200th appearance for Munster was to dislodge the ball from his opposite loosehead Boan Venter, before he departed to rapturous applause.
Edinburgh got a lifeline though nine minutes from time when Henry Pyrgos sniped over under the posts, with Boffelli converting to leave it 27-20.
But that was as close as they got and Zebo completed his hat-trick and wrapped up the bonus point three minutes from time when Healy sent him over in the left corner before adding the extras.