Category: Archive

Irish ruggers roughed up

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Mark Jones


Toulouse 43

Leinster 7

Castres 21

Munster 13

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DUBLIN — All is certainly not lost for the remaining two Irish provinces in rugby’s European Cup, but the climb to the summit of this prestigious competition was made all the more steep for both Leinster and Munster following last weekend’s final round of pool games.

Leinster went to French club Toulouse in search of a result that would earn them a prized home quarterfinal only to end up on the wrong side of a 43-7 hammering. That setback now means that Leinster have to travel to the reigning champions Leicester in the last eight.

Equally, a 21-13 defeat for Munster at the hands of another French opponent, Castres, ruled out the possibility of a quarterfinal at the province’s citadel, Thomond Park. Now Munster are facing a demanding assignment in Paris against last year’s runners-up, Stade Francais.

Hit by a host of injuries, it was near miraculous that Leinster were just 3-0 behind at the break against a dominant Toulouse. Without key players Nathan Spooner, Malcolm O’Kelly, Eric Miller and Emmet Byrne, and forced to move Brian O’Driscoll from center to out-half, Leinster were unable to sustain their defensive commitment after the changeover and the French poured through to score six tries.

“You could almost see them run out of petrol,” said coach Matt Williams, whose players were clearly feeling the effects of a game against Newcastle just four days earlier. “Toulouse played some scintillating stuff.”

Asked about his team’s quarterfinal opponents, whose last home defeat was to Leinster more than two years ago, Williams wasn’t prepared to write off the chances of an upset.

“Leicester are obviously a great side, but any team can beat any team on a given day, and we’ve beaten great teams before,” he said. “While it’s an enormous task, write us off at your peril.”

The end of Leinster’s 15-game winning streak couldn’t have come at a worse time. Apart from dominating last season’s European competition, Leicester are currently clear at the top of the English Premiership and have not lost in their last 50 games at home.

Munster’s task is just as difficult. A third meeting with Stade Francais in as many seasons has left Declan Kidney’s side with a major hurdle. A quarterfinal in Limerick was what the doctor and the team’s followers had ordered, but, unfortunately, it was not to be as Castres won last Saturday’s vital encounter with an injury-time try at Stade Pierre-Antoine.

With the score 16-13 in Castres’ favor just before Olivier Sarramea’s vital score in the sixth minute of added time, Munster had done enough to top the pool and earn that home quarterfinal. Their points aggregate was superior to the French team and all they had to do was hold on. But Anthony Horgan gambled on an interception, missed, and Sarramea was through for the decisive try.

There was a mean edge to the contest and it was alleged that prop Peter Clohessy had been bitten by Castres No. 8 Ism’lla Lassissi. Clohessy certainly had a mark on his arm consistent with a bite, but even if disciplinary action is taken against Lassissi, it will be of little consolation to Munster.

“There’s no point in even thinking about what might have been,” said team manager Jerry Holland. “We have to travel to Paris to play Stade Francais and we must deal with that.”

Meanwhile, Ulster’s big 59-3 home victory over Italian side Treviso was still not enough to earn them a place in the last eight. So Leinster and Munster fly the flag for Ireland and, given the difficulty of the draw, any further progress would be a bonus.

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