In what can only be described as a match of two halves, Munster came from 20 – 6 down at half time to finish with a well deserved losing bonus point.
In a first half that was littered with defensive mistakes, Munster were under pressure right from the kick off. Clermont spent much of the half camped in the Munster half, and showed some real class and flair to score two converted tries and two penalties, to two penalties from the boot of Ronan O’Gara.
For much of the half, the Munster pack were nowhere to be found, leaving the ball carrier exposed and isolated at ruck time. With O’Gara failing to find touch, the Munster defence were sorely tested with the inevitable first try coming from Mignoni. Who ducked under the Munster to line to snatch a well earned try. Clermont were on the scoreboard again with another try, this time Ledesma was man at the end of the Clermont move.
Munster came out after to break a different team and took the game to Clermont. From the kick off, this was a different team and the forwards started to make a difference, winning some vital turnover ball. Munster had a try disallowed for crossing in the build up, but despite this setback, Munster persevered and Mafi scored a fabulous try to bring Munster back into contention. Clermont were limited to just two penalties in the entire half, both slotted home by James Brock. With two more penalties from O’Gara that brought Munster within 7 points and they left Clermont with a well deserved bonus point.
Throughout the second half Munster showed the pride and passion that has made them one of the most consistent teams in the Heineken Cup. Jerry Flannery was immense throughout the game, and had Munster went on to win this game, he would undoubtedly have been the man of the match. Dougie Howlett also had a great game despite the fact that he was making his Munster debut and hasn’t played competitively since last September. Alan Quinlan came of for Anthony Foley in the second half and almost made an immediate difference, as did Tony Buckley when he replaced John Hayes in the front row of the scrum.
Munster’s next game is against Wasps at Thomond Park next Saturday. With Clermont expected to take a bonus point victory against Llanelli Scarlets, this is a must win game for Munster. A bonus point win would assure them of top place in the group. If they don’t take the bonus point win they must beat Wasps by more than 7 points to deny the English club a losing bonus point. Doing so would also guarantee top spot due to their 36 – 13 victory over Clermont in Thomond Park in November last year.