London Wasps advanced to their first Heineken Cup final with a thrilling 37-32 win over Munster at a packed Lansdowne Road.
Wasps advanced to their first Heineken Cup final with a thrilling 37-32 win over Munster at Lansdowne Road. Wasps, coached by former Ireland chief Warren Gatland, will now face defending champions Toulouse in the final at Twickenham on May 23. The result added to Munster's European Cup misery - this was their fifth successive European Cup semi-final but they have yet to win the trophy. English champions Wasps had to overcome a 10-point deficit midway through the second half but rallied and won a dramatic match when Samoa hooker Tervor Leota went over in the closing stages for their fifth try. Wasps and England captain Lawrence Dallaglio said: "This game had courage, passion, skill, everything... It was a great game of rugby." Meanwhile New Zealander Gatland said: "I can't take the smile off my face. "I thought the team showed great character. Not many teams come back from a 10-point deficit against Munster. "I was very concerned at 32-22 behind. But this group of players just has such a great work ethic and we didn't want to leave this behind us." Munster's Australian coach Alan Gaffney said losing Ireland fly-half Ronan O'Gara on the half-hour mark was an "enormous loss to us". He added: "Ronan's kicking game might have closed the game down for us. Wasps are a very good side but we missed too many first-up tackles and allowed them to gain momentum." But Munster skipper and former Wallaby back-row Jim Williams said: "We've only got ourselves to blame. We talked about discipline and field position before the game but we let them (Wasps) back into it." An action-packed first-half half ended with Wasps two points up at 17-15 but a man down after England flanker Joe Worsley was yellow carded for killing the ball in the 34th minute. O'Gara gave Munster the lead in the opening minute with the first of three penalties. Wasps responded three minutes later when Richard Birkett won a lineout, the ball was worked across field and England wing Josh Lewsey crossed and fly-half Alex King converted. King and O'Gara added to the penalty tally before O'Gara departed. Then came Worsley's sin-binning and O'Gara's replacement, Jason Holland, landed the resulting penalty to leave Munster 12-10 up. However, minutes later, Holland went from hero to villain when his clearance kick was charged down by former Wales scrum-half Rob Howley. The number nine, who almost got over the line himself, instead fed flanker Paul Volley for an opportunist try. But Holland's second penalty on the stroke of half-time reduced the gap to 17-15 in Wasps' favour. Wasps though caught Munster cold at the start of the second half with a well-worked try. Left-wing Tom Voyce scythed his way crossfield through the Munster defence before full-back Mark van Gisbergen dived over in the right corner. Williams went to the video referee who confirmed the score and although King missed the touchline conversion, Wasps seemingly had breathing space at 22-15. Worsley returned with his side in the lead before Holland's third penalty reduced the gap to 22-18. Wasps then had a second-player sin-binned when, in the 51st minute, centre Fraser Waters was ordered off. And Munster then turned the game on its head with two tries in as many minutes. In the 59th minute, following flanker Stephen Keogh's break, No.8 Anthony Foley went over for a try. Holland landed a superb touchline conversion and Munster were 25-22 ahead. The crowd went even more noisy when, following Holland's superb grubber kick, Munster won the ball and skipper Williams was driven over. Holland added the extras to put Munster 10 points in front at 32-22 with 20 minutes left. But Wasps refused to yield and King's penalty in the 67th minute closed the gap. And Wasps' recovery continued when, with Munster down to 13 men following the sin-binnings of Donncha O'Callaghan and former Wasp Rob Henderson, Voyce crossed for a try. King's conversion tied the game at 32-32 with barely six minutes remaining before Leota powered over to give Wasps the edge.