A penalty from Ronan O’Gara, less than three minutes from the end of normal time, saw Munster snatch victory (19-17) from the jaws of defeat against a fired-up Montauban side in Thomond Park.
When Petre Mitu edged Montauban in front with a penalty just four minutes from the end of normal time, it seemed that Munster hopes of crowning their Heineken Cup return to the new look Thomond were about to be dashed. However, Munster gained field position and possession form the restart from the restart and when Montauban were forced to concede the penalty, that Prince of kickers, O’Gara nervelessly knocked the kick over to claim the four points.
It was a performance that was way below what was expected, not least by the players themselves, and on a par with how they performed in their last outing against Glasgow Warriors. In the circumstances then, they can be happy to have come through with four points and never was a wake-up call better timed.
Munster started well and with intent yet fell behind to a 9th minute Mitu penalty and had to wait until the 32nd minute to resister their opening score, a penalty from O’Gara.
They upped the intensity in the closing stages and were rewarded when Barry Murphy, on as a replacement for Rua Tipoki, scored following good work first by Marcus Horan and then Doug Howlett.
Mitu and O’Gara traded penalties at the start of the second half before a questionable penalty allowed Mitu reduce the gap further in the 56th minute. Montauban’s one and only try scoring opportunity of the game presented itself moments later when Alan Quinlan’s long pass came off the head of Rida Jahouer allowing Sylvain Jonnet to kick on and score and Montauban edge in front by a point.
O’Gara restored Munster’s narrow lead with a 65th minute penalty then saw another effort come back off the upright. A deathly silence enveloped the ground when Mitu put the visitors ahead with three minutes to go but Munster somehow kept their composure and O’Gara his nerve to snatch the win.
Munster: K Earls; D Howlett, R Tipoki, L Mafi, I Dowling; R O’Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; P O’Connell (capt), D O’Callaghan; A Quinlan, D Wallace, J Melck. Replacements: B Murphy for Tipoki (25-34 and 35 mins), P Warwick for Dowling (54 mins), D Ryan for Quinlan (60 mins), F Pucciariello for Hayes (66 mins), J O’Sullivan for Melck (70 mins). Not used: D Fogarty, M Prendergast.
Montauban: J Dalla Riva; S Jonnet, J Viard, R Jahouer, J Cassin; R Lespinas, P Mitu; B Balan, B Mach, N Adams; S Murray, R Frost; Y Caballero, M Raynaud (capt), M Clarkin. Replacements: K Ghezal for Frost (66 mins), L DelBoulbes for Balan (67 mins), S Florea for Adams (71 mins), J Laharrague for Jonnet (73 mins). Not used: C Traversa, A Battut, F Fortassin.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).