Munster get off to a flying start with 42 points against the Sharks

Simon Zebo announced his return after three years in Paris with two tries

Munster 42 Sharks 17

All the pent-up frustration of the past 18 months evaporated in the Limerick night air as Munster got their United Rugby Championship campaign off to a flying start on Saturday.

The crowds returned to Thomond Park in full voice for the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the celebratory tone was set inside six minutes as Simon Zebo announced his return after three years in Paris with a breakaway try before adding a second one in the closing stages.

While World Cup winner RG Snyman, out since suffering a cruciate injury eight minutes into his debut in August last year, came on to a rapturous reception after 65 minutes of a 42-17 win over the Cell C Sharks.


In between, Munster were rewarded for their expansive game with a bonus point secured by the 51st minute, while Ben Healy came on for the impressive Joey Carbery and kicked a penalty between the posts from just inside his own half. It was that sort of night for Munster.

They led 20-3 at the interval, pulling away with a brace of tries in the closing five minutes of the half as the Sharks’ resistance wilted in the face of strong pressure from Johann van Graan’s men.

Zebo’s breakaway try set the tone for a night of celebration in Limerick as he sprinted through from inside halfway after a loose Sharks pass bounced favourably for him and Munster’s all-time top scorer didn’t need further invitation to race through and score his 61st try, nodding to the crowd as he comfortably outsprinted South African sevens star Werner Kok to score.

Munster enjoyed plenty of possession after that but the Sharks defended well, with three penalties to the right corner failing to extend the lead but the concession of a sixth penalty resulted in a yellow card for former Munster prop Thomas du Toit and Joey Carbery tapped over the penalty to make it 8-0 after 28 minutes.

Sharks fullback Curwin Bosch, who missed his first kick from 30 metres, pulled back a penalty from the 22 but the Munster response was good.

Once again they raided down the right and scrumhalf Craig Casey sniped inside centre Marius Louw to score in the corner after a five-metre scrum.

Carbery was again unable to convert but he added the extras in the final play of the half when a tapped penalty ended with No 8 Gavin Coombes - who scored 15 tries last season - touching down.

The Munster crowd, back in a familiar environment for the first time in a year and a half, were on their feet as the teams headed in for the break.

Munster continued to dominate after the restart and while Andrew Conway was denied a try down the right side after good work by the Scannell brothers - Rory, whose left boot found some great field positions, and Niall, but winger Yaw Penxe and hooker Kerron van Vuuren did superbly to get back and deny the Munster winger.

The reprieve didn’t last long for the Sharks as they continued to cough up penalties and after du Toit was again pinged, Munster tapped and went and Coombes got his second try of the night to secure the bonus point.

Munster gifted the Sharks a try when Carbery's long pass aimed for Dan Goggin was well read by outhalf Boeta Chamberlain and he raced through from 40 metres to score under the posts after 57 minutes, with Bosch converting to cut the gap to 27-10.

Healy’s long range penalty put 20 between them before Penxe showed what Sharks are capable of with a good try down the left.

Munster finished strongly with Chris Cloete scoring against the club where he spent some of his formative years.

But it was left to Zebo - who else? - to put the cap on a rapturous night when he chased a Goggin grubber and scored in the left corner.

Scorers - Munster: Tries; S Zebo (2), C Casey, G Coombes (2), C Cloete. Cons; J Carbery (2), B Healy. Pens; J Carbery, B Healy. Sharks - Tries; B Chamberlain, Y Penxe. Cons; C Bosch (2). Pen; C Bosch.

Munster: M Haley; A Conway, D Goggin, R Scannell, S Zebo; J Carbery, C Casey; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, F Wycherley; P O'Mahony, J O'Donoghue, G Coombes.

Replacements: K Knox for Ryan (53 mins), T Ahern for (53 mins), D Barron for N Scannell (60 mins), J Loughman for Kilcoyne (60 mins), C Cloete for O’Donoghue (60 mins), B Healy for Carbery (64 mins), RG Snyman for Wycherley (66 mins), R Osborne for Casey (73 mins).

Sharks: C Bosch; Y Penxe, W Kok, M Louw, T Abrahams; B Chamberlain, R Pienaar; K Mona, K van Vuuren, T du Toit; R Roets, G Grobler; D Richardson, H Venter, P Buthelezi.

Replacements: K Mchunu for Venter (34 mins), Venter for K Mchunu (39 mins), N Mchunu for Mona (50 mins), R van Heerden for Roets (53 mins), N Gumede for Venter (58 mins), J Ward for Kok (64 mins), F Mbatha for van Vuuren (64 mins), K Mchunu for du Toit (72 mins), H Andrews for Pienaar (73 mins), S Nohamba for Louw (75 mins).

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU).