Having scored their fifth try — one more than was needed to add a bonus point on to the four they’d already guaranteed for the win — they came under sustained pressure on their own line from a doughty Castres side.
For the full 10 minutes, they stood firm on that line. Donnacha O’Callaghan, Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery and Mick O’Driscoll put in tackle after tackle. Sure, they conceded the odd penalty but a penalty try was never on. And although there were three occasions where a regular try was almost scored, their line held. Managing to keep it intact in a game they’d already won handsomely was nothing short of heroic. Finishing it off with a break upfield and a Jerry Manning penalty was just showing off.
The game should have been over at halftime. Indeed, but for a bout of absent-mindedness from the home side, it would have been. Munster scored three tries in the first 25 minutes but then completely took their foot off the gas. O’Callaghan and Flannery scored identikit tries when they were mauled across the Castres line by their pack within five minutes of each other. And when Anthony Horgan ran through onto Gary Connolly’s chip to touch down, the scoreboard said 19-6, which should have meant that that was that. But a soft try coughed up to out-half Romain Teulet and a conversion and penalty from Laurent Marticorena later, Castres were only three points behind.
But Munster righted themselves and killed the game off in a devastating 10-minute spell in the second half. First, two massive penalties from Ronan O’Gara put them 25-16 up. Then O’Gara turned provider, placing an inch-perfect chip on a plate for John Kelly to run in the fourth try. Trevor Halstead rounded matters off with the fifth on 71 minutes.
Glasgow Warriors 20 Leinster 33
Leinster got their show back on the road in Scotland last Sunday against an admittedly not-up-to-very-much Glasgow side, scoring four tries and securing a much-needed bonus point in the process. Two tries from wing-forward Ciar_n Potts and one each from Felipe Contepomi and Gordon D’Arcy were where the points came from, although it must be said that but for a shaky day with the boot from Glasgow kicker Dan Parks, the margin could have been a lot smaller, if indeed there had to be a margin at all. Parks made a mess of six kicks in total; if he’d kept his nerve and been able to kick straight, Leinster would have been in trouble.
But he didn’t and he wasn’t and they weren’t so all’s well that ends well. in fact, Leinster can be pretty happy with what they’ve done in the competition so far. For a team undeniably in transition, they’ve managed a credible performance against Bath and a steely win away to Glasgow, bonus point and all.
All this under new management who’ve had to do without Brian O’Driscoll, Denis Hickie and, up until Sunday, Malcolm O’Kelly. Contepomi has been at the heart of it and he was again on Sunday. His 18-point total won the game for Leinster and earned him the man-of-the-match award.
“I thought we played a lot better last week and lost,” said their coach Michael Cheika afterwards. “This week I thought we played pretty ordinary, real patchy. But at the end of the day – and I hate saying this — we got the points and we’re in the hunt. I think we deserved to win, we just didn’t play well.”
Biarritz 33 Ulster 19
Parc des Sports Aguilera
Sometimes your luck’s just not in. Ulster hung in grimly in Biarritz last Saturday and despite an early barrage from the home side which saw them run in three tries in the first 15 minute, somehow managed to haul themselves back into contention. With eight minutes to go, they trailed by just four points, 23-19, after tries from Simon and Neil Best got them back into a game that should have been well beyond them.
But as they attacked in search of the try that would have put them ahead and in with a shout of pulling off a massive shock against a team who’ve only ever lost once at home in Europe, a dropped pass left a bouncing ball which Biarritz wing Jean-Baptiste Gobolet picked up and ran in for their fourth try. That it came a full hour after their third is a indication of how thoroughly outplayed they were by Ulster for much of the game.
As it was, Gobolet’s try, the subsequent conversion by Dmitri Yachvili and a last-minute drop goal from Julien Peyrelongue not only secured Biarritz a bonus point but robbed Ulster of theirs. Cruel.
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