A 16-3 victory at Kingsholm over the English Premiership leaders Gloucester put Munster into the Heineken Cup semi-final, for the 7th time in 9 seasons, where they will meet the winners of today’s clash between Saracens and Ospreys
It was a win that owed much to concentration courage and commitment and a clinical control in the second half that Munster dominated for long stretches. They led 8-0 at the break thanks to a Ronan O’Gara penalty and a 37th minute try in the right hand corner from Ian Dowling. O’Gara added a second penalty eight minutes into the restart and on 61 minutes Doug Howlett gathered Denis Hurley’s clever kick-ahead to put the outcome beyond any real doubt.
Shortly after Ryan Lamb opened Gloucester’s account with a penalty but their supporters who hoped perhaps this might inspire a late rally were merely clutching at straws. Anthony Foley and Mick O’Driscoll were sent on with ten minutes to go and Munster continued to work their socks off until Nigel Owen sounded the final whistle.
Afterwards Gloucester coach Dean Ryan said, “Munster are a team built for European rugby and have been schooled in it for years. We are slightly different, with a young core of players and a game based on movement and we did plenty of good things but couldn’t quite break through. That was Test match-intensity rugby and we will be better for it.”
For his part Kidney admitted to being, “just delighted right now. Imagine – the Pool we had, this match and we’re still in it………. If you don’t enjoy this, it’s no good. I think that’s the thing that enthused me about today – they were enjoying themselves out there. That’s what sport is, it’s there to be enjoyed. You have good days and you have to enjoy them.”
The game opened with a penalty to Gloucester right from the kick off but from in front of the post and 20 odd metres out Chris Paterson blasted wide. He was wide again soon after before Munster marched Gloucester downfield and O’Gara showed how it’s done with his first penalty. That award coincided with a yellow card for Carlos Nieto and while he was cooling his heels, Paterson missed again before Howlett avoided an attempted thunderous Lesley Vanikolo tackle to put Dowling in for a try.
Gloucester introduced Mike Tindall just before the break but Munster went further ahead early in the second half with an O’Gara penalty and when Hurley joined the line in an attack down the right alongside the Shed, the Gloucester defence was at sixes and sevens, Vanikolo was sucked in and Hurley thread through the deftest of kicks for Howlett to score.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett, R Tipoki, L Mafi, I Dowling; R O’Gara, T O’Leary; T Buckley (F Pucciarello 33-67min), J Flannery, J Hayes, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell (capt), A Quinlan, D Leamy (A Foley 72min), D Wallace
Gloucester: O Morgan; C Paterson (W Walker 55min), J Simpson-Daniel, A Allen (M Tindall 38min), L Vainikolo; R Lamb, R Lawson (G Cooper 64min); N Wood (A Dickinson 64min), A Titterrell (J Paul 53-63min), C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt; W James 53min), A Brown, P Buxton (G Delve 38-40min; 49min), L Narraway, A Hazell