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Northampton Result Changes The Landscape

November 18, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Northampton Result Changes The Landscape

That stunning result from Franklin’s Garden’s last night where Scarlets scored a remarkable bonus point victory makes the outcome from today’s game in Toulouse all the more crucial.

In ordinary circumstances a point of any description from a trip to the south of France would be deemed acceptable, but now with Scarlets firmly in control of Pool One and Munster to go there next, this afternoon's game game in Stade Ernest-Wallon assumes a totally new dimension.

And never mind the fact that Castres have named a side that excludes a recognised kicker in the starting XV, French sides do not not like to lose in front of their home fans and are notoriously difficult to handle in the circumstances Munster find them today as Paul O'Connell outlines. "This is probably the worst time to play them. Early stage of the competition, at home, a week after they've lost. They'll be looking to make a big statement today."

O'Connell's coach Tony McGahan believes need to be switched-on from the off. "With any side away, particularly a French side if you give them momentum you give them a foothold in the game that allows them get their big forward over the gain line and you lose that contact area." he said.

"They're then able to get on the front foot, they just build 'n build and you can almost see them grow in front of your eyes. They fill the field. We had that in Toulon last year where you get an irrepressible force that you can't stop. So we need to make sure that our forwards front up, that we all front up. Especially in that first twenty minutes to make sure we get a foothold in the game and are not playing catch up."

It's an assessment O'Connell agrees with. "Like all French sides, you just can't let them gain momentum. They can play at pace, have a great off loading game and if you let them get into that they're very hard to stop. You have to get their ball carriers on the ground.You just have to stop them playing the game on their terms."

What should work in Munster's favour is the decision to play the game in Toulouse, a move that hasn't apparently found favour with their supporters so it's possible Munster could have as much support as their opponents.

However, its not on terraces or in the stands this game will be won or lost and as both coach and captain point out the course of the match could be determined early rather than late in the game.

Castres Olympique: F Denos; M Evans, P Bonnefond, P Garcia, M Andreu; P Bernard, T Lacrampe; A Peikrishvili, B Mach, K Wihongi, S Murray, I Tekori, J Bornman, Y Caballero, C Masoe [capt] Replacements: M Bonello, M Coetzee, L Ducalcon, M Rolland, R Capo Ortega, R Teulet, R Tales, P Lakafia

Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, D Hurley; R O'Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, B Botha, D Ryan, P O'Connell [capt], P O'Mahony, N Ronan, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Fogarty, M Horan, J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, D Leamy, T O'Leary, I Keatley, W Chambers

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

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Same Again Thanks Rog

November 20, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Same Again Thanks Rog

"Let Rog land it,he can land anything" said Denis Fogarty as the Munster Charter circled over Cork Airport in the vain hope that fog would clear and allow a landing.

As it turned out it didn't, and the squad and their support were diverted to Dublin, the squad setting off south in the early hours of the morning for homes in Cork and Limerick, supporters overnighting in Dublin.

The inconvenience was of course lessened by events in Toulouse earlier in the day where Munster emerged from the Stade Ernest Wallon with four points courtesy, yet again, of an O'Gara special in added time.

This time conditions were slightly more favourable for the man who was winning his 99th Heineken Cup cap and afterwards he recalled the moment in a casual manner as if it were just a normal run of the mill act. "I just knew I had to get it up there, just inside the right hand post. Let the wind do the rest."

Simple ? Yeh right!

He was 40 metres out and the gap between the upright from there looked awfully small. But then again, that's with a mere mortal's vision. O'Gara is no mere mortal.

His modesty about his own part was matched by his graciousness towards his teammates who, "had to work hard to get me into position." and once again Munster showed remarkable fortitude, as they'd one a week earlier, to earn four precious points.

Before the off they'd spoken of the importtance of a good start and the necessity to deny Castres momemtum.

They didn't achieve either. The 'home' side raced into a six then eleven point lead with Pierre Bernard rubbishing the idea that they'd suffer in the absence of a recognised kicker. He landed two huge efforts and saw his conversion of the Brice Mach 12th minute try come back off the left upright.

There was a marked improvment from Munster in the second quarter and although O'Gara fluffed his lines with a missed close-in drop goal, they were on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute when Doug Howlett scored wide on the right. O'Gara kicked the conversion but missed a later penalty and to compound that miss Pierre-Gilles Lakafia then stepped inside Howlett for a try that Bernard converted for a 18-7 lead.

Just before half time, Munster forced a series of five metre scrum, Castres were drawing the disapproval of Wayne Barnes but in the end Munster opted for te penalty that O'Gara kicked to leave eight points separating the sides at half-time.

From the restart Munster played much more direct rugby and Peter O'Mahony, who was outstanding throughout, showed good pace to score in the 43rd minute.

Bernard pushed it out to 21-17 ten minutes later and then O'Gara once again played a pivotal role, blocking down an attempted Remi Tales clearance that Denis Leamy gathered to flip to another replacement Will Chambers to dot down, the O'Gara conversion giving them a precarious looking three point cushion.

Bernard's penalty nine minutes from the end of normal time then seemed certain to leave the sides sharing the spoils but to their great credit, Munster worked their way back downfield, metre by bruising metre. O'Gara stepped back into the pocket, stepped back another 10, O'Leary's delivery was right on the money and his out-half did the rest.

It was by no means a flawless performance and no-one recognises that better than themselves. But they displayed great fortitude throughout and a great deal of self belief.

Paul O'Connell was immense, O'Mahony continues to grow in stature, Niall Ronan had a great outing, Damien Varley carried bravely and Will Chambers made a huge impression when he came on.

But in truth it required a massive team effort, perhaps typified by Fogarty's contribution when he came on as flanker replacement for O'Mahony, to achieve what they did and sets things up nicely for the trip to Parc Y Scarlets in early December.

Munster: J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes (W Chambers 43), L Mafi, D Hurley; R O'Gara, C Murray (T O'Leary 55); W du Preez, D Varley B Botha; J Ryan (D O'Callaghan 49), P O'Connell; P O'Mahony (D Fogarty 690, N Ronan, J Coughlan (D Leamy 65).

Castres Olympique: F Denos (R Tales 63); M Evans, P Bonnefond, P Garcia, M Andreu (P Lakafia 4); P Bernard, T Lacrampe (R Teulet 69); A Peikrishvili (M Coetzee 56), B Mach, K Wihongi; S Murray (M Rolland 73), I Tekori; J Bornman, Y Caballero ( R Capo Ortega 60), C Masoe.

Referee: W Barnes (England)

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