Ronan O'Gara was the hero once again for Munster after kicking a drop-goal in injury time to beat Castres 27-24 on Saturday.
Munster pivot Ronan O'Gara was the hero once again for his team after kicking a drop-goal in injury time to beat Castres 27-24 at Stade Ernest-Wallon on Saturday.
Just like he did against Northampton last week, the veteran fly-half pulled a victory out of the fire for the two-time Heineken Cup champions by sending a last-gasp attempt between the sticks.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for Castres, who looked destined for a draw with time up on the clock… but that man O'Gara proved to be a sharp thorn in the French club's side.
It was O'Gara's charge down that allowed replacement Will Chambers to run in for Munster's third try and put his team in front with 14 minutes of the match remaining. And it was O'Gara's touchline conversion that meant Castres had to score twice to win.
Instead, the hosts could only manage another penalty kick from Pierre Bernard – his fourth of the night – to level the scores in the 70th minute.
Castres seemed to hold on for the draw thanks to a superb try-saving tackle by flank Jannie Bornman on Munster wing Doug Howlett four minutes from full-time. But O'Gara had other ideas…
Bernard got the home side off to a good start with two early long-range penalties and hooker Brice Mach rumbled over to extend their superiority.
However, former All Black wing Howlett was on hand to finish James Coughlan's inviting pass and O'Gara slotted to put the Irishmen on the scoreboard after 23 minutes.
Early replacement Pierre-Gilles Lakafia superbly beat Howlett and Bernard to restore the 11-point lead but back came Munster and O'Gara landed a penalty five minutes into first-half injury time.
Quick Conor Murray hands helped engineer a try for impressive young flanker Peter O'Mahony to cut the deficit to 18-17 five minutes after the interval before Bernard booted a third penalty.
The wily O'Gara then charged replacement Castres fly-half Remi Tales's attempted clearance and Denis Leamy fed fellow sub Chambers to put Munster in front for the first time.
O'Gara converted but Bernard brought the scores level 24-24 nine minutes from time and the mercurial Irish number ten was in the pocked to slot the winner after 80 minutes was up.
Tries: Mach, Lakafia
Pens: Bernard 4
Tries: Howlett, O'Mahony, Chambers
Cons: O'Gara 3
Castres: 15 Florian Denos, 14 Max Evans, 13 Paul Bonnefond, 12 Pierre-Manuel Garcia, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Pierre Bernard, 9 Thierry Lacrampe, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Yannick Caballero, 6 Jannie Bornman, 5 Iosefa Tekori, 4 Scott Murray, 3 Karena Wihongi, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Anton Peikrishvili.
Replacements: 16 Mathieu Bonello, 17 MichaÃ«l Coetzee, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Matthias Rolland, 20 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 21 Romain Teulet, 22 RÃ©mi Tales, 23 Pierre-Gilles Lakafia,
Munster: 15 Johne Murphy, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 John Hayes, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Denis Leamy, 21 Tomas O'Leary, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Will Chambers.
Referee: Wayne Barnes