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O’Gara rescues Munster win with dramatic drop goal in dying seconds

O’Gara rescues Munster win with dramatic drop goal in dying seconds

Munster won this match with a finale reminiscent of Ireland’s win against Wales in 2003. Ronan O’Gara dropped a goal with the last kick to snatch a win they should have wrapped up earlier.

When Dan Parks slotted a 45 metre penalty to lead by a point with 38 seconds to go, Glasgow looked sure they’d burgled a great win. But with a display of composure that was Galweyesque, Munster kept their composure to secure a win, with a Ronan O’Gara drop goal with 10 seconds left, in a match they should have sewn up earlier.

Interviewed after the match, Anthony Foley was remarkably downbeat given what had just happened, saying they were ‘kicking themselves’ for allowing the situation come to that. Ne’er a truer word said.

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Had Munster not won this, there would have been an inquisition worthy of the Middle Ages. Munster had dominated most of the second half, holding the aces up front and out wide, but spurned chances to put the game beyond issue. Their late indiscipline looked to have cost them dear.

Such indiscipline was a throwback to the first half, when Munster coughed up penalty after penalty to allow Glasgow keep them on the back foot. In fairness, Glasgow played smart, cohesive rugby from the kick-off, keeping ball in hand. Munster didn’t touch the ball for the first five minutes, by when they were 3-0 down. Gordon Bulloch was driving up the middle, Sean Lamont was appearing everywhere but on his wing, Munster coughed up four penalties inside ten minutes and Munster couldn’t get hands on the ball. It was fully twelve minutes before Munster got worthwhile possession, and even then, O’Gara knocked on in a precursor of what was a poor first half performance from the outhalf.

However, damage was limited. Indeed, O’Gara landed a penalty on 15 minutes to square matters. However, a Lamont break restored the advantage on 20 minutes. By now, though, the Munster machine was gearing up and they were starting to achieve some phases. But it got worse before it got better. Lamont made a searing run off a midfield offload, sprinting past Sheahan before a trademark Stringer tap tackle felled him just as he looked like making it home. Donie MacFadyen showed terrific support though to take the pass off the deck and skate in. Parks’ convert made it 13-3 on 29 minutes.

It was extraordinary that every time Glasgow scored, Munster responded immediately with one of their own. It started with David Wallace, who gave an outstanding display of running throughout, going close. MacFadyen wrapped up the ball professionally on the deck and was binned for his troubles. To add to his discomfiture, Munster opted to kick to touch and powered over, with Sheahan last man up and the scoreboard moved to 13-8. The ease of the score was a foretaste of Munster’s rolling maul dominance through the remainder of the match. O’Gara’s conversion was poorly struck.

O’Gara, the ultimate hero, had a bit of a shocker of a first half – passing poorly, taking poor options, conceding a penalty and coughing up a dangerous lineout situation off a straightforward ball. So when the second half started with a delicious double miss ball from O’Gara to send Cullen haring outside second centre and make it all the way to the line, one felt that this was indicative of Munster turning it around.

O’Gara’s convert was struck better, but hit the post from the right touchline. Scores even at 13-13, we waited for Munster to surge ahead.

Indeed, Munster did up the pace and looked capable of scoring through the second half. They just didn’t take many chances. Typical was a nice show of the ball by Quinlan, before he blew the chance with a howler of a pass.

Glasgow came right back and Payne did well to defend a dangerous kick ahead, but he coughed up a penalty five metres out. Glasgow opted for a scrum, but looked to have blown the chance when Munster defended through phases and earned a defensive scrum. Foley was forced to pick from a messy scrum, whereupon, in a rare scene, Dan Parks stripped him of the ball. A quick despatch to Andrew Henderson, saw him cruise around Trevor Hogan in midfield to stroll in. Parks’ successful kick stretch Glasgow out to 20-13 on 53 minutes.

Cue the Munster restart try again. Again, a Wallace incision before Mullins made a good break, great hands from Foley and then Cullen, with a ball over the top to Horgan who raced in. O’Gara nailed the convert and parity was restored on the scoreboard at 20-20.

Still, there was disparity in the play. Despite a penalty against Cullen for not releasing, Munster had cleaned up their discipline and were better in broken play. A good counter saw Cullen make good ground before sending Wallace up the right. The chance was lost though when he cut inside instead of using the man outside him. Munster weren’t converting these chances, but there was no great worry. Even less, when Payne broke down the left before the ball was worked right to Kelly, now on for Storey. He took his man on on the outside, knowing he could release inside to Cullen to score. Which is exactly what he did. The conversion missed, Munster were finally ahead 25-20 after 66 minutes and it was going according to script.

But there was never the comfort of being beyond seven points in it. A Bulloch break up the middle led to a penalty for hands in the ruck. Parks, perfect from the boot thoughout, landed the three points to make it 25-23 after 74 minutes. The return of the early indiscipline haunted Munster for the remainder, Quinlan being penalised for loose feet in the ruck on 82 minutes enabling Glasgow to get out of their half before what seemed certain to be the winning penalty by Parks in the 84th minute.

Referee Whitehouse told them there was 38 seconds left. Bowman did well to snaffle a loose ball off the kick-off. There were shades of the World Cup final as O’Gara sent Mullin up the centre to make 10 metres rather than attempt the 45m drop. Back into the pocket. Sweet strike. No problem. Ten seconds to spare. Sure, where’s the fuss?