Munster beat Treviso 35-14 at the Stadio Monigo in Italy on Saturday afternoon despite going down to 13 men in the second half.
Tries from Danny Barnes, Johne Murphy and two from Simon Zebo helped secure the bonus point for the away side while captain Mick O’Driscoll and Zebo were sent to the sin bin to allow Treviso back into the game.
Munster got off to a flying start and were on the score sheet early on when Danny Barnes charged down an attempted clearance by a Treviso player and went over the line for a try in the 4th minute, which Ronan O’Gara duly converted to put his side 7-0 up.
The away side doubled their lead in the 10th minute when Simon Zebo scored the second try of the game and O’Gara converted.
Treviso were abysmal for the opening period and could barely string two passes together as poor handling and unforced errors allowed Munster to run ragged over them; O’Gara stretched the lead in the 19th minute with a penalty.
Munster had more hunger than the home side and looked certain to score another try in the first half, and in the 25th minute Johne Murphy obliged after he grounded O’Gara’s intelligent grubber kick that beat the Treviso defence; the Munster outhalf converted the try he helped set up to leave the score at 24-0.
The home crowd started to get on the back of their team and a combination of that and Munster taking their foot off the gas allowed Treviso back into the game, as they spent the last 10 minutes of the first half in Munster territory.
Munster’s defence managed to keep out a number of try attempts by Treviso in their sustained period of pressure until a late try, scored by scrum half Fabio Semenzato, in stoppage time of the first half helped the home team back into the game, as Mick O’Driscoll was sent to the sin bin for persistent fouls; Willem De Waal converted the try.
Zebo was shown a yellow card five minutes into the second half and Treviso capitalised on their numerical advantage just two minutes later when Corniel Van Zyl capped the Italians pressure with a try; De Waal scored his second conversion to narrow the gap to 24-14.
Treviso looked like they might mount a comeback but the calming influence of Ronan O’Gara’s peerless kicking was on display for all to see and the veteran outhalf steadied his sides nerves with two penalties to stretch Munster’s lead to 30-14.
O’Gara’s penalties effectively killed the game and, despite a brief nervy moment when Brendan Williams intercepted a pass and was nearly in behind the Munster defence until he was tackled, the last ten minutes were all about Munster attempting to score a fourth try for the bonus point.
Simon Zebo made amends for his yellow card when he found himself one on one with a Treviso defender on the left wing, and the Munster winger showed his pace and ability when he went beat his man and scored his sides’ fourth try.
Munster should have ended the game in the first half until the easing of their initial pressure allowed Treviso to get back into the game, but once again Ronan O’Gara’s influence allowed Tony McGahan’s side to see out the win and ultimately take all the points.