RugbyU: Munster edge Perpignan in titanic struggle

PARIS - Munster noved four points clear at the top of their pool with a gutsy 24-23 Group 1 win over French champions Perpignan at Thonond Park on Friday.
The French looked to have snatched the contest after South African replacement Philip Burger went over for a superb 70th-minute try.

(AFP/Peter Muhly)
(AFP/Peter Muhly)
But visiting flanker Bertrand Guiry's late high tackle allowed Ronan O'Gara to kick a match-winning penalty and ensure that the quarter-finals loom once again for Munster, who hyave at least made that stage for the past 11 seasons.
Flanker Yoann Vivalda and scrum-half Nicolas Durand both went over in the first half as the French took the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening half but a quadruple blast from the O'Gara boot levelled matters at 12-12 and another four kicks proved just enough.
The quality of O'Gara's kicking showed he was back in the groove for the 2006 and 2008 European champions after being dropped for Ireland's recent Test with South Africa.
Replacement David Mele's penalty and Burger's touchdown after collecting a kick from Paul Warwick outside the Perpignan 22 and a pacy run for the line looked to have set the French up for victory.
But Mele missed the conversion and after Guiry caught Lifeimi Mafi O'Gara stepped forward to land the crucial kick as Munster pulled off the win in the absence of Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery, out with Achilles trouble.
Northampton will hope to push their claims Saturday as they take on Italy's pool tailenders Treviso.
Also Friday, Glasgow saw off Gloucester 33-11 to keep their slender hopes of advancing from Pool 2 alive with tries by Max Evans and Bernardo Stortoni, while Dan Parks booted seven penalties and a conversion to see the hosts leapfrog their opponents in the table.
French side Biarritz lead the pool and can take another stride towards the quarter-finals if they beat second-placed Newport on Sunday.
On Saturday, Irish province and defending champions Leinster will continue the defence of their title looking for a win away to the Scarlets that will bolster their hopes of qualifying out of Pool Six.
Pool Four leaders Stade Francais will want to disprove the old charge of French clubs being bad travellers when they take on nearest challengers Ulster in Belfast.
Elsewhere, French giants Toulouse, three-times European champions, will go in search of revenge when they travel to Wales to face the Cardiff Blues, who knocked them out at the quarter-final stage last season.

Saturday, December 12th 2009

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