> By Mark Jones
Munster 27, Stade Francais 10
DUBLIN — First the good news: Munster defeated Stade Francais to reach the semifinals of rugby’s European Cup. Now the bad: Munster were drawn to meet tournament favorites Toulouse in that semi.
So, despite an outstanding 27-10 victory over Stade in Limerick last Saturday, there was just a tinge of regret as the draw failed to go Munster’s way.
There was the possibility of getting another home game, or even a not-too-daunting trip to England or Wales, but taking on Toulouse on French soil is as tough as it gets.
Coach Declan Kidney was putting a brave face on it.
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"In order to win the Cup, you’ve got to beat the best, so off to France we go," he said.
Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, the English club Northampton will play Llanelli of Wales.
But whatever about the difficulty of Munster’s task on May 6, it’s best now to rejoice in last weekend’s powerful performance. Thomond Park was packed and with seven of Ireland’s international side in the lineup, the country’s champion province simply swept Stade Francais aside.
Two tries from Anthony Horgan and Dominic Crotty came in the first 10 minutes as Munster began with an irresistible burst. Although the French came back into the contest, out-half Ronan O’Gara kicked five penalties and the home team were never in any great difficulty.
Once again, Keith Wood and Peter Clohessy led from the front and No. 8 Anthony Foley produced a magnificent individual display.
"Our key word was possession," said Foley, "because when you play a French team, the problem in the first 20 minutes is that you don’t get the ball. So you’ve got to get
and then hold on to it."
Last season, Ulster’s European success was built on home games in both the quarterfinal and semifinal and then on a final at Lansdowne Road. Now Munster have to do it the hard way. Not too many people are betting against them, though.
Meanwhile, Terenure moved four points clear at the top of Division One of the All Ireland League following an 18-17 win over St. Mary’s. Clontarf eased relegation worried when they defeated fellow strugglers DLSP by 29-22.