Despite having better-quality possession for most of the game, Munster couldn’t capitalise on it and managed to score no tries whatever, eventually gaining their winnning 24 points courtesy of Ronan O Gara’s kicking, including an exceptional left-footed drop goal.
Just as well he was back on form.
Munster decided to gift the visitors two soft tries in the first quarter, in case anyone felt like relaxing.
The game was Munster’s to throw away, which they nearly did in the final minutes when they handed Perpignan a gap for Burger to run through in an astounding burst of speed to score a third try.
Munster looked more composed than Perpignan for most of the game, but couldn’t manage to get a proper platform going to produce tries.
It didn’t help that Wayne Barnes reffed the game like somebody on the French payroll, awarding three penalties for infringements in the scum, including one against John Hayes for not pausing properly despite not being able to see the player, and another for the Munster front row popping up even though the Perpignan players did exactly the same thing at the same time. He somehow overlooked a French player’s attempt to break Keith Earls’s arm by stamping on it, and to round off a shameful display, he disallowed a perfectly legal try from Denis Hurley, resulting in the thinnest possible margin in the closing minutes.
All in all, a disappointing outcome. Perpignan went home with a losing bonus point, while Munster failed to clock up even one try.
Perpignan in their own stadium next week will not be easy.[scrollGallery id=15]
Seconds Out says:
The most prolific points scorer in the history of the European Cup put the boot into his critics with a clinical display at Thomond Park last night as Munster edged out French champs Perpignan in Limerick.
On an evening when Munster fans were checking their health insurance subscriptions to see if they were covered for triple, open heart bypass surgery, Ronan O’Gara kicked all 24 points.
The Reds fly half also fired over a drop kick – with his weaker left foot. He can box southpaw as well!
Friday’s win, achieved without star signing Jean de Villiers who was dropped, lifted the Reds four points clear of the French at the summit of Pool 1. Both sides meet again in France next weekend.
A win in that game and Munster will almost certainly qualify for the quarter finals of the European Cup for the twelfth year in succession.
However, Perpignan, who secured a bonus point last night – it was the least they deserved – served notice that it will take a mammoth effort from Munster to beat them in their own back yard.
Showing superb handling skills – Thierry Henry is their forwards coach – the French club scored two tries in the opening quarter as Yoann Vivalda and Nicholas Durand reduced Thomond Park to a state of collective anxiety as the visitors insisted on playing the part of some sort of Catalan Grinch.
However, O’Gara’s metronomic right boot arrowed over four penalties to restore parity at 12-12 at half time.
And he nailed another three kicks and a drop goal after the interval to secure a crucial win for the hosts.
But it was touch and go in the final quarter as Philip Burger ran in a superb try with ten minutes remaining. Fortunately, as it turned out, David Mele missed the conversion – by inches.
Good man David!
The French paid the price for indiscipline in the final few minutes when Bertrand Guiry caught caught Mafi with a high tackle.
O’Gara did the rest, dissecting the posts to leave the Reds in pole position and their fans, – those still in possession of a heart beat that is – in a state of triumphant, if slightly nervous exhaustion.