Planet Rugby

Munster leave Gloucester high and dry

05th April 2008 19:19

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The Munster and Gloucester players have a little chat

Boiling point: Tempers flare as both sides let their passion get the better of them

Munster secured their path into the last four of the Heineken Cup with a 16-3 victory over Gloucester in their quarter-final at Kingsholm.

History has paired these two great sides together before, and the latest chapter proved to be just as absorbing as those that have gone before. There was passion aplenty from all, as if that was ever in doubt, and the rugby matched the desire from both sides.

Gloucester will be left wondering what might have been - Chris Paterson missing three penalties in the opening twenty minutes when his side were in the ascendancy. This is the same Chris Paterson who had perfect returns in both the World Cup and Six Nations, yet with the pressure on he crumbled in spectacular fashion.

In stark contrast Ronan O'Gara, who slotted three points with pin-point accuracy after Carlos Nieto was sent to the sin-bin after just thirteen minutes, was his usual assured self. With each Paterson miss one could sense the Gloucester spirits fading just ever so slightly, and in return Munster grew in their belief, a kind of belief that only they have.

It was, in all honesty, a bizarre start to the game. Gloucester were awarded a penalty after just eight seconds - Lifeimi Mafi fingered for a needless block on Olly Morgan. Paterson missed the resulting kick at goal, which by anybody's standards was as easy as they come, and stunned silence engulfed Kingsholm.

Five minutes in and the passion boiled over, which was always the danger when you have two sides with as much desire as these two. Lesley Vainikolo was late on Rua Tipoki and the Munster centre took exception to the treatment - cue a melée of players, a host of air shots and plenty of wagging fingers. Nigel Owens stamped his authority on proceedings by dressing the captains down.

Gloucester failed to heed his words of warning and soon found themselves down to fourteen men when Carlos Nieto failed to roll away. O'Gara's kick was straight and true and Munster went into a lead they would never relinquish.

From that position it was classic Munster, a performance full of experience that left this young Gloucester side with no answers. Try as they did Gloucester simply couldn't crack a stubborn Munster defence, and on the occasions they did make breaks the likes of Ian Dowling, Doug Howlett and Alan Quinlan swarmed back to snuff out any potential danger.

Having absorbed endless Gloucester pressure in the opening thirty minutes Munster's first try came from their own adventure and pressure. Having won a turnover on their own line they strung together a passage of play lasting well over two minutes, including fourteen phases and culminating in Ian Dowling coasting over without so much as a Gloucester finger on him.

It all seemed too easy for the darlings of Europe. Gloucester had thrown everything at them, a relentless series of attacks without a single point in return. Then one sweeping move later and Munster sensed this was to be their day as they showed their hosts how it is done. The value of experienced campaigners such as O'Connell, O'Callaghan, Quinlan and O'Gara make so much difference, for whilst Gloucester are brim full of talent they still lack a little something still.

The second half saw Munster tighten their stranglehold on the game as the rain began to fall. O'Gara slotted another penalty and Gloucester were forced to chase the game, which is always a danger against Munster who love nothing better that to sit back and strike on the counter-attack.

And that is exactly how they sealed the game. Yet more turnover ball in their own half and before you know it Doug Howlett is over in the corner - in fairness he had the easiest of parts to play. It was Darragh Hurley's sumptuous kick through that afforded him the time and space to gather and dive for the line in one motion. To add injury to insult he did so right under the noses of the 'Shed-heads'.

Ryan Lamb did strike a solitary penalty late on, but by that stage it was more a case of salvaging some face for Gloucester. It is one thing to go out of Europe, but to go out without scoring a point is a little embarrassing.

What had started as such a promising season for Dean Ryan's side has come to a grinding halt. Their stranglehold on the Guinness Premiership gone and now the dream of European glory has been snatched away from them in front of their own fans.

For Munster their love affair with the Heineken Cup continues and they now await the winners of Sunday's clash between Saracens and the Ospreys. Whatever the result it will be another away day, not that that will bother Paul O'Connell and his men. It will be a brave man who bets against them and an even braver team to stop them.

Man of the match: Chris Paterson aside there was not a player on the pitch who failed to perform. Andy Hazell and Luke Narraway were superb in a losing battle, as was James Simpson-Daniel who carries the Gloucester back-line at times. For Munster there were several superb displays. Mafi and Tipoki were outstanding in midfield, as were O'Connell and O'Callaghan up front. But without Alan Quinlan this Munster display would not have been complete. He was in superb form, pilfering loose ball, winning turnovers at the breakdown and constantly on O'Gara's shoulder to cart the ball over the gain-line.

Moment of the match: It came in the opening minute, but when Chris Paterson missed the first of his three penalties one got the sense that it was not going to be Gloucester's day.

Villain of the match: There was the early exchange of pleasantries but that aside it was a good clean game of rugby.

The Scorers:

For Gloucester:

Pen: Lamb

For Munster:

Tries: Dowling, Howlett

Pens: O'Gara 2

Yellow Cards: Nieto (12th minute - repeated infringements)

The Teams:

Gloucester: 15 Olly Morgan, 14 Chris Paterson, 13 James Simpson-Daniel, 12 Anthony Allen, 11 Lesley Vainikolo, 10 Ryan Lamb, 9 Rory Lawson, 8 Luke Narraway, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Peter Buxton, 5 Alex Brown, 4 Marco Bortolami (capt), 3 Carlos Nieto, 2 Andy Titterell, 1 Nick Wood.

Replacements: 16 Jeremy Paul, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Will James, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Gareth Cooper, 21 Willie Walker, 22 Mike Tindall.

Munster: 15 Darragh Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Rua Tipoki, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Ian Dowling, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 David Wallace, 6 Alan Quinlan, 5 Paul O'Connell (capt), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Jerry Flannery, 1 Marcus Horan.

Replacements: 16 Frankie Sheahan, 17 Tony Buckley, 18 Mick O'Driscoll, 19 Anthony Foley, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 Paul Warwick, 22 Kieran Lewis.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Touch Judges: Nigel Whitehouse, Hugh Watkins (Wales)

Television Match Official: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Citing Commissioner: Ray Wilton (Wales)

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