Category: Archive

Munster, Leinster, reach European Cup quarter finals

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Munster made light of the fact that the match was delayed for 24 hours as hurricane-force winds lashed the south-west of France to run in five tries against their opponents.
Not alone is the quarter-final against the Ospreys from Wales now a much more lucrative proposition, but the advantage of playing in Limerick, where they have been virtually unbeatable in European competition, has now made Munster the favorites to retain the trophy.
“We tried not to let the delay disrupt us,” said captain Paul O’Connell who once more had a storming game. “We had a nice day on Saturday, we played an indoor soccer tournament, went for a meal, watched a few movies in the team room and just enjoyed each other’s company.
“The home quarter-final is massive for us and for our supporters. The big days in Thomond Park don’t worry me in the slightest, I know where we are going to be at as a team.”
Leading by just 10-6 at the interval thanks to a try from Tomas O’Leary and a couple of kicks by Ronan O’Gara, Munster then pulled clear with further tries from Lifeimi Mafi and sub Barry Murphy who both ran in two apiece.
“Apart from the first ten minutes, we gave a ruthless and professional performance,” O’Connell added. “It was top class and a real strong example of our mentality as a squad.”
If there was no sign of a ruthless and professional performance at the RDS in Dublin, at least Leinster made it two Irish provinces in the quarter-finals when they got the better of Edinburgh by 12-3.
Although any class of a win was all Leinster needed in the circumstances to book an away game against English club, Harlequins, in the knockout stages, they had hoped to put on a display for their supporters. However, as Felipe Contepomi kicked all 12 points from penalties, this marked the third match in a row that Leinster had failed to score a try.
“We’re just happy that we’re in,” said a relieved coach Michael Cheika. “It was a little frustrating, but that’s the nature of the game. We do need to improve, there’s no doubt about that. I’m confident we can do that because we were playing good rugby before. We’ve gone off the boil but we’ve still battled away.”
It was just as well that Leinster didn’t need a bonus point that goes with scoring four tries, as once more, their attacking play left a lot to be desired. Some heavy rain didn’t help matters, but the winners were still very unconvincing.
“It’s hugely frustrating, it’s hard to put a finger on it,” said full-back Rob Kearney. “We’re creating opportunities, but just lacking the clinical component. If we can get the final pass, we’ll see the tries coming.”
Although Ulster were already out of contention, they performed well with a young, inexperienced side before losing out by 24-19 to Stade Francais in Paris where Paul Steinmetz and Nigel Brady scored tries.
In the European Challenge Cup, Connacht bounced back from a heavy defeat by London Irish to defeat French club Dax by 49-3 in Galway and book themselves a place in the quarter-finals. Niva Ta’auso and Fionn Carr bagged two tries apiece for Connacht who now have to travel to play Northampton in early April.
European Cup quarter-finals: Cardiff v Toulouse, Munster v Ospreys, Harlequins v Leinster, Leicester v Bath. Games to be played on weekend of April 10-12.

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