Munster completed a clean sweep for Irish teams in the Heineken Cup opening weekend when Ronan O’Gara landed and 80th minute penalty from the half way line to give his side a 21-19 victory over Leicester Tigers at a packed and soaking wet Welford Road.
And it was O’Gara who rescued this game for Munster after they had gone behind 19-18 when Andy Goode knocked over a penalty with just six minutes of normal time remaining. O’Gara’s show and go allowed him make the break from his own 22 and when he was finally grounded just over the ten metre line referee Nigel Owen penalisd Shane Jennings and then advanced the penalty for verbals from Leicester. O’Gara showed remarkable concentration to land the kick and Munster then soaked up the pressure to record their second win at the famous ground.
It was immense peformance from the title holders and if O’Gara fully merited his Heineken Cup Man of the Mach award, the team, in which Shaun Payne, John Kelly, Marcus Horan, Denis Leamy and David Wallace were outstanding, deserved huge plaudits.
They probably surprised the home side – and their supporters – with the intensity of the opening exchanges and one huge hit from Ian Dowling forced the cough-up that saw Donncha O’Callaghan race 40 metres for the opening try.
O’Gara missed that conversion but added apenalty and then his deft inside pass had Kelly racing clear to initiate the move that ended with Wallace scoring the second, six minutes into injury time of the opening half.
Facing into the breeze in the second half and with Goode now in position in place of Paul Burke, Munster saw their nine point lead interval lead whittled away by a penalty and controversial penalty try. Then Goode struck again for the lead before O’Gara produced a touch of magic to gain position to allow himself deliver the coupe de grace.