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Heineken Cup: Munster Run Ends

Heineken Cup: Munster Run Ends

The Heineken Cup semi-finals will be without Munster for the first time since 1999, after the province valiantly lost out 19-10 to Biarritz Olympique in Sunday’s quarter-final.

The Heineken Cup semi-finals will be without Munster for the first time since 1999, after the province valiantly lost out 19-10 to Biarritz Olympique in Sunday’s quarter-final.

HEINEKEN CUP Quarter-final: Sunday, April 3
Biarritz Olympique 19 Munster 10, Estadio Anoeta, San Sebastian
Scorers: Biarritz: Try: Martin Gaitan; Con: Dimitri Yachvili; Pens: Yachvili 4
Munster: Try: David Wallace; Con: Paul Burke: Pen: Burke

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Coming off the back of a disappointing Six Nations campaign, it is disheartening to note that also – for the first time since Ulster’s success in ’99 – the final four will be minus an Irish participant.

Biarritz ‘basqued’ in the collective glory of French club rugby at Estadio Anoeta, as they earned a third semi-final spot for the Gauls.

Only 2001-and-2002 winners Leicester Tigers can now prevent French hands from lifting the trophy at Murrayfield on May 22, after a dominant weekend from Top 16 heavyweights Toulouse, Stade Francais and finally, Biarritz.

Biarritz hared out of the traps against Munster, racking up a 16-0 lead by the half-time interval.

Alan Gaffney’s men were stung mercilessly by Argentine centre Martin Gaitan’s try on the quarter-hour and a first half penalty hat-trick from the boot of France scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili.

But fittingly at the home of Spanish soccer giants Real Sociedad, brave Munster made it ‘a game of two halves’ – drew breath – and fought back through David Wallace’s 45th-minute try and a Paul Burke penalty, with thirteen minutes of normal time remaining.

A sixth successive semi-final spot wasn’t to be for the men in red however as, in the words of the soon-to-be departed Gaffney: “We just didn’t seem to have the pace to go on and win it.”

Roared on by 8,000 travelling supporters, Munster flanker Alan Quinlan turned villain as his three ruck infringements saw Yachvili bag Biarritz nine crucial points – on 11, 30 and 41 minutes.

While off-the-boil Munster waited 32 minutes to finally breach into the Biarritz ’22, a cruel turnover on their own 22-metre line saw Puma Gaitan race in for the opening try.

Burke – a Challenge Cup winner with Harlequins last year – was robbed by Damien Traille and he set up his fellow centre Gaitan to outdo Peter Stringer for the left corner.

That was about the highlight for Thomas Lievremont’s side as they strangely failed to build on their opening salvo – except for Yachvili’s rapier-like right boot.

Munster emerged for the second half in determined fashion, and after Burke had missed a 50-metre shot at their first points, full-back Shaun Payne had the Biarritz defence skittling backwards.

Lievremont was called upon to ankle-tap Payne to the ground just five metres from his own line, as the Munster full-back evaded the tackles.

Flanker Wallace did get over moments later, as he switched to number eight at the base of a close-in scrum and showed Yachvili a clean pair of heels to score.

Burke converted and a couple of galloping charges from Munster prop Marcus Horan soon had the visiting support on their feet.

They sensed another famed Munster fightback but Yachvili’s fourth penalty – although answered back by Burke – saw Biarritz’s ‘white wall’ defence rule the roost in the closing quarter – with international star Serge Betsen particularly prominent.

Captain Anthony Foley – equalling Mike Galwey’s Munster caps record (136) – and locks Paul O’Connell and Donncha O’Callaghan stood out as Munster attacked at will but they got little change out of the home side.

Afterwards, O’Connell – a certainty to be named in Sir Clive Woodward’s Lions squad on April 11 – conceded: “A few little errors cost us really. Going 16-0 down, that killed us in the first half.

“We were a small bit hesitant. If we had have got to half-time with six or nine points on the board, then it would have been a different game – but their discipline was quite good. We only knocked over one penalty in the end.

With a number of Munster veterans on the verge of retiring, O’Connell refused to be downcast, adding: “We’ll be back again next year. There’s a good nucleus of a team there.”

Biarritz: Nicolas Brusque; Jimmy Marlu, Damien Traille, Martin Gaitan, Philippe Bidabe; Julien Peyrelongue, Dimitri Yachvili; Petru Vladimir Balan, Benoit August, Denis Avril, Jerome Thion, Olivier Olibeau, Serge Betsen, Thomas Lievremont (Capt), Imanol Harinordoquy.
Replacements used: Benoit Lecouls for Balan (58 mins), David Couzinet for Olibeau (67), Thierry Dusautoir for Lievremont (78), Balan for Avril (80-87), Jean-Michel Gonzalez for August (80). Not used: Julien Dupuy, Guillaume Bousses, Jean-Baptiste Gobelet.


(15) Shaun Payne
(14) John Kelly
(13) Mike Mullins
(12) Rob Henderson
(11) Anthony Horgan
(10) Paul Burke
(9) Peter Stringer
(1) Marcus Horan
(2) Frankie Sheahan
(3) John Hayes
(4) Donncha O’Callaghan
(5) Paul O’Connell
(6) Alan Quinlan
(7) David Wallace
(8) Anthony Foley (Capt)

Replacements used: Jason Holland for Burke (73 mins), Jim Williams for Quinlan (76), Paul Devlin for Mullins (83). Not used: Gordon McIlwham, Jerry Flannery, Trevor Hogan, Frank Murphy.

HT: Biarritz 16 Munster 0; Attendance: 32,000
Referee: Chris White (England)