Once again Munster produced exactly what they needed in an inspiring Thomond Park. Four tries, two in each half from Mike Mullins, Paul O'Connell, Peter Stringer and a penalty try at the death, were enough for Alan Gaffney's side to maintain their lead at the top of Pool Five and earn a place in the last eight for the sixth consecutive year.
It looked unlikely that the quartet of tries would be forthcoming for much of the evening, which was dominated by pack flare-ups and Limerick downpours, but a penalty try awarded after 75 minutes saw Munster remain unbeaten at home venue after the third quarter of the game saw them decidedly flat.
Bourgoin outside-half Alex Peclier, sin-binned for interference at the end of the first half, kicked the visitors into a first minute lead with a right-sided penalty from 25 metres. Bourgoin, with just one win from five, offered little in attack and were pegged back after 22 minutes when Munster centre Mullins was fed beautifully by man-of-the-match Ronan O'Gara to squeeze past poor tackles from Bourgoin skipper Pierre Raschi and Peclier to touch down near the posts for O'Gara to convert.
Ireland second row O'Connell crawled over four minutes before the half-time whistle, off the back of a Donncha O'Callaghan lineout take five metres out, for his second European try in 17 appearances and an interval lead of 12-3.
The 24-year-old O'Connell felt the ire of a capacity Munster crowd when ignoring a four-man overlap after he had wrestled possession away from Matthys Stolz on 55 minutes, but the home side's composure was regained nine minutes later when scrum-half Stringer sniped over from five metres for his first European try of the season.
O'Gara's conversion put them 19-7 in front, and with Julian Pierre was sin-binned for pulling down a Munster lineout, Alan Gaffney's side closed out the win with more elation than self-assuredness as English referee Tony Spreadbury whistled for a penalty try five minutes from the end of normal time as Bourgoin's front row collapsed a scrum five metres from their line.
Munster's fifth win of the campaign sees them top Pool Five ahead of Gloucester, as a result of their better performance in the two games played out between the sides this season.
Munster will now face Stade Francais in the Quarter Finals of the Heineken Cup in Thomond Park on the weekend of the 9th of April 2004.
Munster (26) Tries: Mullins, O'Connell, Stringer, penalty try Cons: O'Gara 3
Bourgoin (3) Pen: Peclier
Heineken Man of the Match: Ronan O'Gara.
Jeremy Staunton, John Kelly, Mike Mullins, Rob Henderson, Anthony Horgan, Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, James Blaney, John Hayes, Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell, Jim Williams (capt.), David Wallace, Anthony Foley.
Replacements: Gordon McIlwham, Jerry Flanery, David Pusey, Stephen Keogh, Eoin Reddan, Jason Holland, Mossie Lawlor.
15 Fabien Gengenbacher, 14 Kevin Zhakata, 13 Grant Esterhuizen, 12 Mickael Forest, 11 Jean-Francois Coux, 10 Alexandre Peclier, 9 Mickael Campeggia, 8 Pierre Raschi (captain), 7 Sebastien Chabal, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Matthys Stoltz, 4 Jullien Pierre, 3 Julien Bouic, 2 Benoit Cabello, 1 Olivier Milloud.
Replacements: 16 Jean-Philippe Bonrepaux, 17 Benoit Barbato, 18 Pascal Pape, 19 Augusto Petrilli, 20 Christophe Laussucq, 21 Glenn Davis, 22 Anthony Forest
To the Brave and Faithful, nothing is impossible!