Zebo stars for Munster
Former champions run up half century at Franklin's Gardens
Last Updated: 21/01/12 8:10pm
Simon Zebo: second-half hat-trick
Simon Zebo grabbed a second-half hat-trick as Munster secured a home quarter-final with an impressive 51-36 win over Northampton.
Despite a faltering scrum which conceded two penalty tries, the two-time Heineken Cup winners managed to maintain their 100 per cent record in Pool 1, with wing Zebo bagging three of four second-half tries.
The Irish province needed a win to ensure a quarter-final tie on home soil, but they got off to a poor start as they were bullied by a dominant Saints pack.
Ryan Lamb knocked over two early penalties, Ronan O'Gara replying for the visitors, and Northampton assumed control on 13 minutes when referee Roman Poite awarded them a penalty try.
Northampton's restarts were worryingly poor however, and Munster seized upon it with ruthless effect.
After O'Gara cut the gap to seven, prop BJ Botha burrowed over after Munster continued to pick and go near the Saints line.
Late penalties from O'Gara and Lamb left the game nicely balanced at 19-19 at the interval, but a splendid finish from Johne Murphy minutes after the restart swung the balance in Munster's favour.
Zebo grabbed his first try on 49 minutes after great play from Keith Earls and Denis Hurley, but Northampton responded on the hour mark when they were awarded a second penalty try.
Scrum-halves Lee Dickson and Conor Murray were sin-binned for some handbags, but the former's half-back partner O'Gara increased Munster's lead to 12 points before Zebo intercepted a James Downey pass to score.
With three minutes left Zebo bagged his treble, before replacement Scott Armstrong grabbed a consolation from the final play.