ALL THINGS IRELAND: HEINEKEN CUP: MUNSTER WIN, CONNACHT & ULSTER LOSE
IRELAND BEAT NEW ZEALAND FOR THE 1ST TIME 40-29 IN HISTORIC WIN IN CHICAGO...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

HEINEKEN CUP: MUNSTER WIN, CONNACHT & ULSTER LOSE

CONNACHT LOSE AT THE SHOWGROUNDS


Connacht 10-36 Toulouse:
The men from the West were hoping to earn a victory in their first home game at the re-vamped Galway Showgrounds.
With a neat new stand and a capacity crowd of over 9,000 including new President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny from Castlebar, the scene was set for another famous night for Connacht rugby.


Sadly, it didn't go to plan as French powerhouses, Toulouse raced to an early lead with a try by Bouilhou and 3 penalties by Beauxis forced Connacht onto the backfoot in the first-half.
The referree awarded Toulouse a controversial  penalty-try when a scrum on the ten-metre line was wheeled by Connacht, which usually means a penalty to the home team.
However, the ref gave an inexplicable penalty-try to Toulouse.


Despite this, Connacht were second-best in the half, poor in the scrum, turning over ball at the breakdown and conceeding alot of territory.


Eric Elwood must have had some choice words to say at half-time as Connacht came out all fired up, first to the breakdown, on the front foot, excellent at line-outs and it all resulted in a penalty-try of their own to make it a more even and exciting match.


However, Toulouse, experienced warriors in this competion, came back with a try close in by Nyangya with time almost up.


So Connacht on a steep learning-curve in the Heineken Cup, but they will make their mark on the competition.




Castres 24-27 Munster


The Irish province had trailed for most of the game but battled back with tries by Doug Howlett, Peter O'Mahony and replacement winger Will Chambers.


Castres started strongly and grabbed first-half tries by hooker Brice Mach and winger Pierre-Gilles Lakafia.


The match was tied at 24-24, with the clock in red numbers, when the Munster pack set up O'Gara's winning kick.


It leaves Munster second in Pool One, the Scarlets leading by one thanks to their bonus point against Northampton on Friday night.


Castres, playing on the ground of their great rivals Toulouse, may feel unlucky to have taken just a bonus point from the closely-fought encounter.


However, Munster's experience proved decisive yet again as the two-time winners secured a valuable victory in the south of France.
It was Castres who started brightest, with Bernard's long-range penalty from the left putting them 3-0 ahead in the third minute.


The fly-half then quickly landed another wind-assisted penalty from inside his own half.
The French side got their first try in the 13th minute when captain Chris Masoe burst his way into the Munster 22. The ball was quickly moved from left to right, for Mach - on for the injured Marc Andreu - to get over in the right corner for 11-0.
Munster's forwards gradually started to make an impression and they were finally rewarded after 23 minutes.
When the strong-running Wian du Preez was held up in front of the posts, some good handling by scrum-half Conor Murray and number eight James Coughlan allowed 33-year-old former All Black Howlett to score on the right.
The Heineken Cup's record points scorer O'Gara nailed the conversion from the right corner of the 22.
But Castres scored another try three minutes before half-time after Paul O'Connell surrendered possession deep in his own half.
Castres took full advantage, sweeping the ball swiftly across the 22 and Lakafia stepped inside the exposed Howlett to touch down in the right corner.
Bernard added the extras and Castres led 18-7, before O'Gara scored a penalty with the last kick of the half after a succession of five-metre scrums.
The Irish side drew to within one point five minutes into the second half when O'Mahony burst through a huge gap in the home defence for a try which O'Gara converted.
Bernard responded with a penalty to stretch Castres' advantage to 21-17 but the hosts handed Munster a try just moments later.
As replacement Remi Tales tried to clear on his own line, O'Gara charged his kick down and Denis Leamy fed fellow replacement Chambers for an easy score.
O'Gara converted as Munster found themselves in front for the first time but Bernard levelled things with 10 minutes left, setting up a thrilling climax.
Munster battered Castres for the final few minutes, and Tomas O'Leary's pinpoint pass gave O'Gara just enough time to rifle over the match-winning drop goal from the 10-metre line.


Leicester 20-9 Ulster


 Matt Smith scored the only try late on as Leicester beat Ulster 20-9 to top Pool 4 of the Heineken Cup.
Leicester's Toby Flood and Ulster's Ian Humphreys dominated most of the game with their kicking but the Tigers eventually pulled away to win.
For most of the game the Irish province looked more than capable of causing an upset and will be disappointed not to have come away with at least a deserved bonus point.
Ulster took a second-minute lead when Humphreys kicked a 55-metre penalty as the Tigers were penalised for offside following a poor up and under from Geordan Murphy, who, sadly is now past his best.
The visitors continued to have the better of the opening exchanges but when Chris Henry was penalised for not releasing, Flood levelled the scores with a 50 metre penalty.
Within minutes Ulster were back ahead with another penalty from Humphreys and remained so as Flood missed with his next attempt.
However, this setback was the forerunner for Leicester to produce the first sustained period of pressure.
The Ulster defence was softened up by some good driving runs from Thomas Waldrom and Marcos Ayerza resulting in a Leicester penalty which Flood converted.
Neither side was able to produce any continuity to their play with constant disruption due to penalty awards.
Humphreys made it 9-6 after 20 minutes with another sweetly struck kick but once again Flood tied the scores after the Irish were penalised at a scrum.
There continued to be very little between the teams and Ulster were showing no signs of being overawed.
Their pack were meeting the Tigers head on with halfbacks Paul Marshall and Humphreys kicking astutely to pin back the hosts.
Roman Poite's whistle continued to be the dominant feature of a desperately poor first half which was briefly enlivened by one powerful run from Alesana Tuilagi, who was the first to threaten the try line.
The wing was hauled down by the combined efforts of Andrew Trimble and Simon Danielli and when Flood booted the ball into touch the half-time whistle was met with a chorus of boos.
The boo's continued into the second half when early on Nevin Spence was penalised for taking Murphy as he was airborne.
There was little in it but a penalty was awarded which secured a platform for the Tigers.
Flood's penalty put his side ahead for the first time in the match and it should have been 12-12 but surprisingly Humphreys missed with by far his easiest kick.
An excellent kick and chase from the lively Marshall was the prelude for Ulster's best period of the match and a couple of strong runs from Darren Cave put the Tigers' line under threat.
The home defence held firm and a penalty for not releasing relieved the pressure.
Ben Youngs was introduced in an attempt to put some spark into the Tigers' game but the visitors looked the more likely try scorers as the game entered the final quarter.
Leicester raised their game to score the crucial try with 12 minutes to go.
From a ruck inside the Ulster 22, Flood gained possession to put in a clever grubber kick and Smith won the race for the touchdown.
Then with the final kick of the match the fly-half was successful with his fifth penalty.


So thats a roundup of Ireland's involvment in this weekend's Heineken Cup.

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