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Van der Merwe's heroics silence the Twickenham masses

A try for the ages lights up a thrilling opening weekend of Six Nations rugby as Scotland, Ireland and France register away wins

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Munster up and running after victory over Zebre Parma

By PA
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Munster’s superior maul delivered their opening win of the season as they overcame Zebre Parma 21-5 in a drab United Rugby Championship encounter at Musgrave Park.

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Ben Healy converted tries from Niall Scannell (2) and Keynan Knox to give Graham Rowntree’s side a 21-0 half-time lead. Zebre suffered a couple of injury blows and had lock Gabriele Venditti sin-binned.

Replacement Lorenzo Pani’s opportunist 44th-minute effort got the Italians off the mark, but a sloppy closing half an hour saw Munster miss out on the bonus point.

There was some doubt about the grounding of hooker Scannell’s eighth-minute opener, but a lengthy TMO review went Munster’s way and Healy added the conversion.

It came from a well-driven lineout maul and good initial work before that from Patrick Campbell, on a kick chase, and Tadhg Beirne at the breakdown.

Zebre captain Enrico Lucchin and Pierre Bruno provided the running threat before prop Juan Pittinari knocked on in a try-scoring position.

The visitors’ lineout also misfired badly, with Giampietro Ribaldi guilty of two crooked throws and they had nine lost lineouts before the break. Munster’s execution was much cleaner.

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Prop Knox was unstoppable from a few metres out, doubling the hosts’ lead to 14 points in the 17th minute.

Jack O’Donoghue had a subsequent score ruled out, for ‘clear separation’ on this occasion, but Zebre lost Venditti to the bin for a cynical offside.

Scannell crashed over from the resulting lineout drive in the 24th minute, with the visitors having to reshuffle their back-line due to injuries picked up by centres Erich Cronje and Lucchin.

Fabio Roselli’s men sparked into life early in the second half, Jacopo Trulla’s chip kick grounded by onrushing youngster Pani with the bounce having beaten Healy.

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The final 40 minutes were littered with mistakes, however, as even Ireland duo Conor Murray and Joey Carbery, who were both sprung from the bench, could not get Munster firing again.

A muddled Munster lineout summed up a game that had disintegrated as a spectacle, the biggest cheer coming when 18-year-old back-rower Ruadhan Quinn came on to become Munster’s youngest player of the professional era.

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