Rob Penney admitted that ill-discipline cost his side dear as their unbeaten start to the RaboDirect PRO12 came undone in Treviso on Friday night.
Munster had four players sent to the sin bin in a bad tempered affair at the Stadio di Monigo and despite scoring three tries to their hosts’ two they still ended up on the wrong end of a 29-19 defeat.
Mat Berquist was on superb form from the kicking tee for the Italians, landing five penalties to punish any Irish infringements.
Italian winger Ludovico Nitoglia also crossed twice for the hosts while Keith Earls, a penalty try and a Stephen Archer try had originally put Penney’s troops 19-9 to the good.
But after Niall Ronan was sent to the sin bin in the first half, Duncan Williams, Cathal Sheridan and Archer all saw yellow after the interval meaning at one point the Red Army were down to 12 men.
And for Penney the defeat was a tough blow to take, ruining their chances of becoming the first ever side to start the RaboDirect PRO12 season with three maximum-point victories and knocking them off the top of the table in the process.
“We’ve just taken a massive step backwards,” Penney said.
“You can’t afford to lose four players, as we did over the course of 80 minutes, and hope to get away with it.”
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues director of rugby Phil Davies couldn’t hide his disappointment after becoming the first side to suffer a RaboDirect PRO12 defeat to Zebre - but he was quick to pay tribute to the Italian outfit.
Tries from Mauro Bergamasco, David Odiete and the outstanding Kiwi scrum-half Brendon Leonard handed Zebre an historic 30-25 victory over the Blues at the Arms Park - their first in the RaboDirect PRO12 at the 25th time of asking.
Leigh Halfpenny, making his first appearance since his heroics for the British & Irish Lions, kicked 20 points in total but is wasn’t enough as Zebre clung on for a famous win.
Dafydd Hewitt scored an early try for the Blues but it remains the only one they’ve scored all season, but Davies believes his side are heading in the right direction.
“It’s a tough one to swallow this,” he said. “We won everywhere but on the most important place, which was the scoreboard.
“In terms of percentages - 60 per cent of the territory and possession I think it was in our favour. It doesn’t count for much unless you convert your opportunities.
“But you’ve got to give credit to them as well, they stuck at it.
“I said during the week they’d improved - and we still should be winning these games at home - but you’ve got to give them a lot of credit.
“We’re growing and developing what we’re doing and it’ll get better, that’s for sure.
“We’re still a work in progress but it’s frustrating losing games like this, but I’m not questioning what I’m doing.”