Munster will head to Lansdowne Road for the semi final of the Heineken Cup following an emphatic 37-32 victory over Stade Francais in an electric Thomond Park on Saturday.
Munster will head to Lansdowne Road for the semi final of the Heineken Cup following 37-32 victory defeat of Stade Francais in an electric Thomond Park. Once again the red army of fans that were lucky enough to be at Thomond Park were nothing less than inspiring, and they were not disappointed by the start that their brave Munster gave them. Munster hit the ground running and within the first minute Shaun Payne touched down following a lineout throw from Frankie Sheahan which Wallace gathered, sending it along the line to O'Gara who sent wide to Cullen, who broke the Stade defence in half and laid off to Payne who covered half the field to touch down in the left corner. O'Gara then converted to give Munster an early 7-0 lead. He then added a penalty goal to take the home side out to a 10-0 lead after barely five minutes. The packed Thomond Park crowd hardly had time to find their seats when winger John Kelly chipped through for centre Rob Henderson to score, but Stade hit back from the kick-off as Argentinian fullback Ignacio Corleto galloped over the tryline from 40 metres. Diego Dominguez's conversion dragged the score back to 17-7, with 24 points being scored in the game's opening 13 minutes. The scoring slowed as the teams settled into their rhythms, but Munster put one foot into the semi-finals when centre Mike Mullins scored and O'Gara converted to give the home side a 14-point lead at halftime. The French club hit straight back in the second half when South African-born centre Brian Liebenberg reached out to dot down and silence Thomond Park. Dominguez's conversion narrowed the margin to seven points, but it lasted barely seven seconds when Munster prop Marcus Horan - who was having a storminggame - ran in a stunning try from 35 metres. Dominguez's deadly boot pegged back a penalty goal, before hookers FrankSheahan (Munster) and Mathieu Blin were sin-binned for fighting. They had barely left the field when replacement backrower Christophe Moni brought Stade back into the match with a try in the corner. Dominguez's sideline conversion hit the post to leave the score at 25-31. Man of the match O'Gara gave his side some breathing space with his second and third penalty goals and Munster held on for a hard-fought victory, despite a late try to visiting winger Thomas Lombard. Scorers:Munster (37) Tries: Payne, Henderson, Mullins, Horan Con: O'Gara 4 Pen: O'Gara 3 Stade Francais (32) Try: Corleto, Liebenberg, Moni Pens: Dominguez Cons: Dominguez 3 Dg: Dominguez