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Brave Munster Out of Heineken Cup
4 April 2004, 5:00 pm
A breath-taking finish at Lansdowne Road saw Munster lose out to London Wasps 37-32 and crash out of the Heineken Cup, following a last minute try by Trevor Leota.
London Wasps hooker Trevor Leota scored a last-gasp try to stun a packed Lansdowne Road crowd and give his side a berth in the 2004 Heineken Cup final against Toulouse at Twickenham on May 23. Leota powered his way over in the 78th minute to silence the record 48,500-strong crowd and give Wasps a 37-32 victory after trailing 22-32 with 10 minutes remaining. It was a thrilling, see-saw match that neither side deserved to lose. It had everything for the fans - 69 points, seven tries and four yellow cards - as two of the best sides in Europe went toe-to-toe for 80 minutes. The eagerly-awaited match started with a hiss and a roar, as Munster fly-half Ronan O'Gara slotted a second-minute penalty goal before Wasps hit back in the best possible fashion. Quick ball from a lineout 20m from the Munster lineout reached winger Josh Lewsey, who cut back on an angle and bulldozed his way over the line to silence the Lansdowne Road crowd. Alex King converted, but O'Gara made it a one-point game with his second penalty goal in only the seventh minute.King replied immediately with his first three-pointer, and Munster's chances weren't helped when key play O'Gara was helped from the field after half an hour. They were the next side to score, however, with replacement kicker Jason Holland converting a penalty goal after Wasps backrower Joe Worsley was sin-binned for a professional foul. Munster's 12-10 lead lasted barely 30 seconds as Wasps scrum-half Rob Howley charged down a Holland clearance, regathered the ball and delivered it to flanker Paul Volley to score. King converted, but Holland had the final say of the half and his second penalty goal meant Munster had to be content with a 17-15 lead at the break. The second half had barely started when Wasps scored a crucial try. Winger Tom Voyce made a great break to within two metres of the Munster line and quick ball to Mark Van Gisbergen gave the fullback the space to go over in the corner. Holland's third goal narrowed the margin to 18-22, and Wasps' chances were hit further when centre Fraser Waters was sin-binned for a professional foul as the London club pushed the rule-book to its furthest boundaries. The one-man advantage proved crucial as first No 8 Anthony Foley crossed the try-line after a great break from fellow backrower Stephen Keogh, and skipper Jim Williams gave his side a 32-22 lead after burrowing over from close range. Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan was the next to face the wrath of Welsh referee Nigel Williams in the 65th minute and he was asked to spend 10 minutes in the sin-bin. King converted a penalty to narrow the margin to seven points, and Munster centre Rob Henderson replaced O'Callaghan in the sin-bin when he went in from the wrong side of the ruck. Wasps took immediate advantage of their extra numbers when Voyce went in near the posts, and King's conversion levelled the scores at 32-all with three minutes left on the clock. But there was enough time for Leota to storm over the try-line in the corner, and video referee Hugh Watkins awarded the try, despite doubts over whether the burly hooker grounded the ball. Munster: Tries - A Foley, J Williams; Pens - R O'Gara 3, J Holland 3; Cons - J Holland 2. London Wasps: Tries - J Lewsey, P Volley, M Van Gisbergen, T Voyce, T Leota; Pens - A King 2; Cons - A King 3. Halftime: Wasps 17-15.
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