Planet Rugby

O'Gara to Munster's rescue

11th December 2009 21:56

Share:

ROG Munster red

Ronan O'Gara: Rescuer of his side once more

24 points from the boot of Ronan O'Gara saw Munster to a shaky 24-23 win over Perpignan in Limerick on Friday, with Catalan hopes now hanging.

Perpignan scored all the tries but they just could not stop giving away cheap penalties and O'Gara could have had nine more points in a game where Munster kicked so much you wondered whether there had been some private sweepstake on it in the Munster hierarchy.

It was a perfect game of rugby for the men in red. Nearly.

That means both half-backs and full-back kicked a lot, while the back row ran a lot. The opposition was pinned in its own half as though caught up in a spider's web and a steady drip-drip of penalties and points accumulated. All over the southern hemisphere, rugby watchers - those still awake - buried faces in hands and lamented. All over southern Ireland, glasses were raised high in confidence. Vive la difference!

The stats tell their own tale. Munster are strong in the line-out and weak in the scrum, so controlled the game so well that there were only four first-half scrums but nineteen first-half line-outs. Perpignan could not get the ball or territory they wanted at all.

Nearly perfect. But two alarming lapses in concentration utterly ruined the picture and meant that despite some 70+ per cent of territory and possession in the first half, Munster were not even ahead at the break, instead held 12-12 by the visiting Catalans.

Indeed, the French, mixing opportunism and enthusiasm with equal vigour, racked up nearly a point a minute during the first quarter-hour, dismaying Thomond Park's noisiest so thoroughly that it took a full 20 minutes for 'Fields of Athenry' to get going.

After O'Gara had given Munster the lead with a straightforward penalty, a Perpignan line-out in Munster's 22 was stolen so well that it surprised even the Munster half-backs. It surprised Yoann Vivalda - the seventh choice Perpignan flank forward pitched in at the deep end - far less and he marched between Munster's pods, snatched up the loose ball and sped away to the corner.

O'Gara restored Munster's lead, but barely had he done so than the home side's line was breached again, this time with hooker Guillem Guirado running through space around the fringes and offloading to scrum-half Nicolas Durand, whose side-step made Doug Howlett look every inch an overweight prop.

Jerome Porical converted the second one to make it 12-6.

Yet Munster were obviously getting the better of the structured parts of the game, with diagonal kicks from O'Gara and Paul Warwick especially causing heavy territorial damage to the French.

The penalty count by the end of the half was 8-2 in favour of the Irish; O'Gara landed two more goals to bring parity to the scoreline as the teams trooped into the sheds.

Munster regained the lead early in the second half when O'Gara notched his fifth, but a brief flicker of hope for the hitherto strangled French came from one of those rare scrums, with the French flattening the Munster unit to gain a penalty with which Porical restored parity.

Only a flicker. O'Gara dropped a goal off his left peg, missed another penalty with his right as Munster turned a screw with inexorable precision, then did add another with his right after Quinlan had followed up and caught a high kick. The question seemed to be now whether Perpignan could cling on for a bonus point or not.

They did better. David Mele landed a penalty after Lifeimi Mafi had held on but on the day that Free State prop Wian du Preez made his Heineken cup debut for Munster it was another from Bloemfontein, Philip Burger, who opened up the game again, fielding a high ball and returning it all 70m for a brilliant solo try.

But Mele could not land the conversion. Munster two points behind with eight to play? Where have you heard that one before? Sure enough, within four minutes, O'Gara had kicked another goal after a high tackle by Bertrand Guiry and Munster led 24-23.

Darragh Hurley sped away off the back of a ruck to land what looked to be the cruellest of sucker punch tries, but was pegged back for a knock-on. Then Munster got their mitts on the ball again for another couple of minutes, ground out another penalty and in a bizarre break with tradition, kicked for the corner rather than the posts. Perpignan discipline faltered under the pressure and the clock ticked down as Wayne Barnes administered a warning.

The final act was entirely appropriate. Munster won the line-out and were driven back five metres by a fine Perpignan effort before kicking the ball limply out into touch. Even in an attempt to administer a knockout blow, Munster could only resort to the cheap kicking option. The Irish got out of jail here, next week in the Aimé-Giral will be different.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Pens: O'Gara 7
Drop goal: O'Gara

For Perpignan:
Tries: Vivalda, Durand, Burger
Con: Porical
Pens: Porical, Mele

Munster: 15 Paul Warwick, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Denis Hurley, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Tomas O'Leary, 8 Denis Leamy, 7 David Wallace, 6 Alan Quinlan, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 John Hayes, 2 Denis Fogarty, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Damien Varley, 17 Darragh Hurley, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Mick O'Driscoll, 20 Donnacha Ryan, 21 Niall Ronan, 22 Peter Stringer, 23 Jean de Villiers.

Perpignan: 15 Jérôme Porical, 14 Farid Sid, 13 David Marty, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Christophe Manas, 10 Gavin Hume, 9 Nicolas Durand, 8 Ovidiu Tonita, 7 Bertrand Guiry, 6 Yoann Vivalda, 5 Robins Tchale Watchou, 4 Olivier Olibeau, 3 Nicolas Mas, 2 Guilhem Guirado, 1 Perry Freshwater.
Replacements: 16 Marius Tincu, 17 Jérôme Schuster, 18 Kisi Pulu, 19 Charles Geli, 20 David Mele, 21 Jean-Philippe Grandclaude, 22 Philip Burger, 23 Rimas Alvarez Kairelis.

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Ashley Rowden (England), Robin Goodliffe (England)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

By Richard Anderson

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs Australia08:35
Argentina vs South Africa20:40
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs Castres20:45
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs Grenoble18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas vs Griquas19:10
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour vs Southland19:35
Friday , August 22
Waikato vs Canterbury18:05
Hawkes Bay vs Taranaki20:05
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs Wellington14:35
Counties Manukau vs Otago16:35
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs Auckland14:35
Bay Of Plenty vs Tasman16:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
ITM Cup
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
Pumas 28 - 21 CheetahsPumas vs Cheetahs Report
Lions 41 - 13 Blue BullsLions vs Blue Bulls Report
Friday , August 8
Eastern Province Kings 16 - 35 Western ProvinceEastern Province Kings vs Western Province Report
More Currie Cup results
Super Rugby
Saturday , August 2
Waratahs 33 - 32 CrusadersWaratahs vs Crusaders Report
More Super Rugby results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00