Tag Archives: Will Chambers

Drop Goal Deja Vu

Match Report

Castres 24-27 Munster

19th November @ Stade Ernst Wallon

Ronan O’Gara repeated last week’s heroics with a match-winning drop goal in the last play of the game to ensure two wins from two for Munster in Pool 1. From a similar position to the drop goal against Northampton, O’Gara once again showed serious nerve to land the three pointer. In doing so, he earned Munster a valuable four points in a game that looked like it had slipped away from them at one stage.

Castres set the early pace at the Stade Ernst Wallon, with outhalf Pierre Bernard opening the scoring with a long-range penalty out on the left after only 3 minutes. Several minutes later he added another booming penalty, this time from inside his own half. With Munster struggling to get into the game at this early stage, Castres built on their encouraging start with the first try of the game after 11 minutes.

Following strong carries from Jannie Bornman and then Chris Masoe, Bernard spread the ball wide to the right and good hands from the outside backs manufactured a two-on-one, allowing hooker Brice Mach to go over for the score. Bernard’s conversion came back off the upright, but Castres had now built a strong 11-0 lead.

Howlett went over for his second try in two games. Photo via MD+D

Munster manufactured a replying score within ten minutes. Wian du Preez put his team on the front foot and Paul O’Connell drove on inside the 22. Conor Murray cleverly put du Preez through a gap and then moved the ball to Coughlan who released Doug Howlett to dive over for the try. O’Gara added the conversion. This passage exemplified Munster at their best. Simple, strong carries from forwards coming onto the ball, then releasing the finishers off front foot ball.

A feature of the first half was Munster’s inability to come away from promising field positions with scores on the board. Just before the Howlett try, O’Gara had scuffed a drop goal attempt after good build up-play in the Castres 22. Soon after the try, he uncharacteristically missed a straightforward penalty attempt when Masoe was penalised for not releasing the tackled player. Then, when Munster returned to the Castres 22, Coughlan was penalised for side entry at the ruck following promising phases. When Castres came back downfield and were offered an opportunity in Munster’s 22, they made no mistake.

Castres kicked in behind Munster and after Murray had cleaned up, O’Connell carried from his own five metre line. Tekori stripped the ball from the Munster captain in contact and Castres swiftly moved the ball through the hands to Lakafia, a replacement for the injured Marc Andreu, wide on the left. He stepped inside a helpless Howlett to touch down. Bernard hit a lovely conversion to put Castres into an 18-7 lead.

On the stroke of half-time, Munster won a scrum battle underneath Castres’ posts to allow O’Gara to narrow that lead. Referee Wayne Barnes had reset the scrum five times before Wihongi was singled out for his binding. O’Connell smartly opted to get the points on the board rather than go for the scrum again. Tony McGahan must have stressed the importance of making territory count at half-time, because Munster began the second half with a well-worked try.

Murray ripped the ball from Masoe in contact and Will Chambers, on for Danny Barnes,used his strong fend to break through the Castres’ defence. Murray then looped off O’Connell and popped to Niall Ronan whose quick hands allowed Peter O’Mahony to gallop to the line as Castres fullback Florian Denos and Lakafia fluffed their defensive lines. O’Mahony fully deserved his try, following up last week’s Man of the Match performance against Northampton with another high-powered effort here. O’Gara added the conversion to O’Mahony’s score.

Bernard gave Castres a four-point lead when Wayne Barnes penalised Munster for dragging down a maul. O’Gara then missed with another drop goal attempt following a counter attack involving Johne Murphy, Howlett and Ronan. Perhaps the outhalf’s drop kicking boots had been left behind in Thomond Park? With Castres holding onto the ball in the Munster half, Ronan made a crucial turnover allowing O’Gara to boot downfield, eventually resulting in Munster taking the lead for the first time.

O'Gara was the hero again. Photo via MD+D

O’Gara blocked down an attempted relieving kick from Castres’ Remi Talles and Denis Leamy, on for James Coughlan, pounced on the rebounding ball. He offloaded to Chambers who crossed the whitewash untouched. O’Gara swung his conversion through the uprights and Munster led 24-21 with ten minutes remaining. The lead didn’t last long though, as BJ Botha was punished for losing his feet at a scrum and Bernard drew Castres level with the penalty, 24-24.

Munster nearly broke through for a try with time running out when Chambers made a scything break through the middle, fending off several tacklers and showing great pace. Mafi took the offload from Chambers but Howlett was then driven into touch as the move broke down. However, the feeling remained that Munster could manufacture one more opportunity, especially with the last-gasp win over Northampton so fresh in mind.

Munster didn’t need 41 phases to construct the position for O’Gara this time. O’Leary hit his outhalf with a pinpoint long pass and, with the last act of the game, O’Gara struck another beauty from the ten-metre line. A legend, a hero, who else would you rather have in that position?

View all the tries and O’Gara’s drop goal here.

Photo courtesy: MD+D

O’Gara Drop Goal Drama

Match Report

Munster 23-21 Northampton

Saturday 12th November @ Thomond Park

O'Gara's drop goal won it for Munster

O'Gara the drop goal hero. Photo via H. Southgate

Northampton bravely put in the tackles, out on their feet by now. Mafi came onto the ball. Surely Munster would knock on? Leamy’s carry was followed yet again by Ronan. Murphy, Varley, O’Leary all bravely took turns to carry. O’Connell came forward, the 30th phase by now! This had to end with a spilled ball… Murphy powered into contact, Munster edged closer to Northampton’s 22. Hayes, the Heineken Cup centurion, took his turn. Leamy again. O’Gara was in the pocket now, middle of the pitch, on the ten-metre line. O’Connell played scrumhalf and threw the ball back to O’Gara…

But no, under pressure O’Gara moved the ball to Howlett, who broke through a tired tackle and for a moment looked as if he might go all the way. Next, Mafi was smashed out on the right hand side. O’Connell carried, then Leamy went forward. O’Gara, still up in the line, jinked and hit the inside runner, the 40th phase! Munster won the ruck. Leamy stood over the ball. O’Gara in the pocket. Leamy spun a perfect pass to O’Gara, standing on the ten-metre line. This time, O’Gara had the space to strike. The ball flew high into the Limerick night air, the will of every Munster fan behind it. Seemingly in slow motion, it flew straight and true. O’Gara punched the air and for a second it felt like Munster had won the Heineken Cup, rather than simply securing a home win in their first pool match.

A fitting end to a thrilling Heineken Cup encounter, showcasing once again just how exciting this competition can be. The match started explosively after Munster won a lineout five metres from Northampton’s line. Man of the Match Peter O’Mahony set his stall out by putting pressure on Ashton and then Foden, forcing them into conceding the lineout. Varley hit Ryan in the middle and a dynamic shove led to Varley touching down at the back of the maul. O’Gara added the conversion to put Munster into a 7-0 lead after only 3 minutes.

Ryan Lamb fell just short with his first penalty effort in the 7th minute. Northampton then gave a counter attacking master class. From a Murray clearance down the line, Artemyev carried with pace from his own half and offloaded to Ashton who released Foden on the other side of the pitch. Foden drew Howlett as Ashton worked hard to get to his fullback’s outside shoulder. Foden sent his England teammate over in the corner, a magnificent example of a back three countering as a unit. Lamb converted well from the touchline.

The Saints lead was extended soon after when Munster dragged down a maul and Lamb put the penalty over. Lamb was successful with another penalty in the 20th minute after Varley went off his feet at ruck-time. Northampton led 13-7 and were more than matching Munster up front. Jim Mallinder’s side looked to put width on their attack, moving the ball into wider channels at every opportunity. A bad pass from Lawes led to one particularly promising passage of play breaking down.

Munster continued to play their rugby in Northampton’s half. After Tongauiha was penalised for driving in and up at a scrum, O’Gara did the honours to narrow the gap. Munster then went over for a crucial try right on the stroke of half time. Lamb kicked aimlessly and O’Mahony carried back well. Murray then broke and offloaded out of the tackle to Barnes. After recycling the ball, Howlett found himself at first receiver and managed to slip through a gap in the Saints defence. He stepped the despairing tackle of Foden and dived over to the right of the posts. O’Gara made no mistake with the convert leaving Munster with a 17-13 half time lead.

Immediately after the break, O’Gara was back over the tee. This time he slotted a penalty when Nigel Owens pinged the Saints for offside after an Artemyev knock on. Munster were punished for the same offence minutes later and Lamb knocked over the penalty, 20-16 to Munster.

In the 56th minute, Northampton retook the lead. After Wilson had trucked it up the middle, the Saints broke back down the blind side and former Munster centre James Downey powered over. Lamb pulled his conversion to the left of the posts, leaving his side with a one point lead, 21-20.

Ten minutes later, Northampton had a gilt-edged opportunity to take the game from Munster’s reach. After Downey had put them on the front foot, a flat pass from Lamb sent Ashton down the touchline. Artemyev kicked Ashton’s offload ahead and then with the line at his mercy he knocked on his attempted pick up. Relief for Munster.

As wholesale changes were made on both sides, Munster started to get on top. Lamb was now happy to kick deep back to Munster, anything to relieve the pressure in the Saints half. O’Gara missed a penalty effort with ten minutes to go. But Munster never stopped believing. With time running out and Northampton still leading, the stage was set for the breathless finale.

Photo courtesy: Henry Southgate