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At Last – It’s Munster’s Day!

At Last – It’s Munster’s Day!

It was a war of attrition but Munster have done it – the Heineken Cup is coming back home to Ireland after an exhaustive 23-19 win for the province over Biarritz.

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…Munster’s Paul O’Connell on the attack at the Millennium Stadium…

It was a war of attrition but Munster have done it – the Heineken Cup is coming back home to Ireland after an exhaustive 23-19 win for the province over Biarritz.

HEINEKEN CUP FINAL: Saturday, May 20

MUNSTER 23 BIARRITZ OLYMPIQUE 19, Millennium Stadium (Att: 74,543)

Scorers: Munster: Tries: Trevor Halstead, Peter Stringer; Cons: Ronan O’Gara 2; Pens: O’Gara 3

Biarritz: Try: Sireli Bobo; Con: Dimitri Yachvili; Pens: Yachvili 4

Full-Time – MUNSTER 23 BIARRITZ 19 – Munster have done it in front of an official attendance of 74,543. Peter Stringer is deservedly named as the Heineken man of the match.

80 mins – Sireli Bobo has a final dart up the right wing but runs into his own man – Chris White rules it as crossing and Munster have a clinching penalty. Peter Stringer kicks it to touch and the Heineken Cup is finally Munster’s!

79 mins – Trevor Halstead knocks on in midfield handing Biarritz a scrum. The ball is worked out to Sireli Bobo’s wing but Munster do well defending a ruck. The ball squirts free and Peter Stringer gets his right boot to it to find touch. Nervous stuff but the crowd sense it’s Munster and start up ‘The Fields’ again.

76 mins – An exhausted Paul O’Connell is replaced by Alan Quinlan who is making only his second appearance of this season’s Heineken Cup.

74 mins – Penalty for Munster! Ronan O’Gara’s third penalty is the perfect reply for Munster – the province are a tad fortunate as Trevor Halstead seems isolated at a ruck but Census Johnson is adjudged to have come in at the side of the ruck. It’s back to a four-point game. MUNSTER 23 BIARRITZ 19.

71 mins – Penalty for Biarritz! As both sides tire, Munster cough up a penalty 35 metres from their own line – pulling down a lineout maul. Dimitri Yachvili kicks his fourth penalty from four attempts. MUNSTER 20 BIARRITZ 19. Munster skipper Anthony Foley receives a great reception as he is taken off – Mick O’Driscoll is on.

63 mins – After a Serge Betsen mistake, a great tackle by Peter Stringer on Nicolas Brusque has the crowd in raptures. Federico Pucciariello is brought on for Marcus Horan, who put in a workman-like performance.

57 mins – Munster’s 16th man crank it up with a lusty rendition of ‘The Fields Of Athenry.’ Munster steady themselves with Ronan O’Gara finding the corners – although he over cooks one and Biarritz attack off the scrum-back. Shaun Payne does well to defend a kick through from Julien Peyrelongue.

53 mins – Biarritz lose Damien Traille to a stomach muscle injury – Federico Martin Aramburu from Argentina is brought on. Biarritz captain Thierry Lievremont is also replaced by Thierry Dusautoir.

52 mins – Penalty for Biarritz! The French side are moving up through the gears – Denis Leamy puts in a neck-high tackle on Imanol Harinordoquy and Dimitri Yachvili lands the penalty kick from 27 metres out. MUNSTER 20 BIARRITZ 16.

48 mins – Penalty for Biarritz! Dimitri Yachvili punishes Munster with a sweet left-footed penalty. MUNSTER 20 BIARRITZ 13.

46 mins – Jerry Flannery is felled momentarily by a flying headbutt to his unmentionables by Dimitri Yachvili. It was purely accidental by the French pivot, but Flannery certainly felt it!

42 mins – Penalty for Munster! An ideal start to the second half as a Shaun Payne garryowen sees Jerome Thion found guilty on holding onto the ball on the deck. Ronan O’Gara slots over from 25 metres out. MUNSTER 20 BIARRITZ 10.

Second Half – No changes at the interval as the 30 players return.

…Peter Stringer dives over for Munster’s second try…

Half-Time – An enthralling half, played at full tilt, ends with Damien Traille kicking a penalty near the halfway line to touch. This one is sure to go right to the death as Munster lead 17-10 at the break. The first score of the second half will be so crucial.

39 mins – What looks a blatant stamp by David Couzinet on Paul O’Connell at a lineout maul is not seen by the officials.

35 mins – Benoit August again over-throws at the lineout, finding David Wallace. That’s the third time the Biarritz hooker has failed to find his man. Full back Nicolas Brusque shows his frustration as he knocks on in midfield when collecting a Shaun Payne kick.

32 mins – Try for Munster! Serge Betsen is asleep at the resultant scrum and Peter Stringer makes full use of it as he picks off the back of the scrum and runs in for Munster’s second try on the blindside. Anthony Horgan’s move in-field had the Biarritz back-line completely fooled, particularly Sireli Bobo. MUNSTER 15 BIARRITZ 10. Ronan O’Gara converts from the right side. MUNSTER 17 BIARRITZ 10.

30 mins – Munster maul forward off the lineout, earning a scrum 15 metres out.

28 mins – Ian Dowling is forced to kick the ball into touch, five metres from the Munster line. Imanol Harinordoquy takes it to set up a driving maul, but Munster defend it well and force a turnover. Ronan O’Gara sets the province off on the attack, Shaun Payne kicks ahead and Munster regain possession before earning a penalty – Biarritz offside again at a ruck. 45 metres out from the Biarritz line, Ronan O’Gara opts to kick for the corner.

23 mins – Penalty for Biarritz! Dimitri Yachvili converts the left-sided penalty from just inside the 22-metre line to level the game at 10-all. MUNSTER 10 BIARRITZ 10.

20 mins – Biarritz put pressure back on Munster with a clever box kick from scrum half Dimitri Yachvili who takes play up to five metres from the Munster line. Imanol Harinordoquy competes well for the lineout with Donncha O’Callaghan, but Munster defend well and earn a scrum. Unfortunately, a poor set piece, showing up some front row problems for the province, allows Dimitri Yachvili a shot at the posts.

…Trevor Halstead celebrates scoring Munster’s opening try…

17 mins – Try for Munster! Munster go through the phases after another Ronan O’Gara kick ahead. Justice is done when Peter Stringer feeds O’Gara who puts South African centre Trevor Halstead over for a great try in the left corner. MUNSTER 8 BIARRITZ 7. The conversion is a peach of a kick from Ronan O’Gara. MUNSTER 10 BIARRITZ 7.

14 mins – Biarritz are offside at a ruck, 10 metres from their own line. Munster opt to kick for touch. A Jerry Flannery lineout is worked out to Anthony Horgan who makes good ground. However, the move is ended as Ronan O’Gara’s chip over the top is touched down for a 22 drop-out by Damien Traille.

12 mins – Serge Betsen is blatantly slowing down a Munster maul. Penalty to the province which Ronan O’Gara opts to kick to the corner – Munster are in the Biarritz 22 for the first time.

10 mins – A quick lineout from Peter Stringer to Donncha O’Callaghan sees Munster tear up towards the Biarritz 22. Trevor Halstead, John Kelly and David Wallace were all involved in the move which was spread out over 50 metres.

8 mins – Penalty for Munster! Good reply from Munster as Ronan O’Gara lands a penalty from 30 metres out after a ruck infringement from the French champions. MUNSTER 3 BIARRITZ 7.

3 mins – Try for Biarritz! The worst possible start for Munster – Biarritz centre Philippe Bidabe cuts through the Munster midfield, handing off John Kelly. Bidabe’s pass for Fijian winger Sireli Bobo is a good one. Bobo runs in from 20 metres out on the left wing for the game’s opening try, but TV replays show that he had a foot – his right one – in touch before he got in for the score. Touch judge Dave Pearson was in a great position to spot it, but incredibly did not see it! MUNSTER 0 BIARRITZ 5. Dimitri Yachvili converts brilliantly from the touchline. MUNSTER 0 BIARRITZ 7.

1 minute – Benoit August shows some early nerves as he produces an over-throw at a lineout. David Wallace gobbles up the ball and Ronan O’Gara clears out of the Munster 22.

Kick-Off – The Millennium Stadium is packed to capacity – Munster fans out-number the travelling Biarritz support by almost 10 to 1. Biarritz, through centre Damien Traille, get the game underway.

Pre-Match – Paul O’Connell, Marcus Horan and John Kelly have all recovered from knocks to take their places in the Munster side for today’s mouth-watering final.

Biarritz welcome back their number eight and captain Thomas Lievremont from injury. The Basque side are the reigning French champions and currently sit top of the Top 14 table a point clear of Stade Francais.

Following a meeting between ERC chief executive Derek McGrath, the teams’ coaches and the Millennium Stadium chief executive Paul Sergeant this morning, it has been agreed to close the stadium’s roof for the game. That would appear to be against the wishes of Munster, who play so well in the elements.

Speaking on the subject of the stadium during the week, Munster out-half Ronan O’Gara said: “The Millennium Stadium is a fantastic stadium once the roof is kept open.

“It has a great surface – they’ve just played an excellent FA Cup final on it, so there can be no excuses on that front. However, if they close the roof, there is a dew left on the surface and it gets on the ball – from a personal point of view, it’s not ideal.”

MUNSTER: Shaun Payne; Anthony Horgan, John Kelly, Trevor Halstead, Ian Dowling; Ronan O’Gara, Peter Stringer; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Denis Leamy, David Wallace, Anthony Foley (capt).

Replacements used: Federico Pucciariello for Horan (63 mins), Mick O’Driscoll for Foley (71), Alan Quinlan for O’Connell (76). Not used: Denis Fogarty, Tomas O’Leary, Jeremy Manning, Rob Henderson.

BIARRITZ: Nicolas Brusque; Jean-Baptiste Gobelet, Philippe Bidabe, Damien Traille, Sireli Bobo; Julien Peyrelongue, Dimitri Yachvili; Petru Vladimir Balan, Benoit August, Census Johnson, Jerome Thion, David Couzinet, Serge Betsen, Imanol Harinordoquy, Thomas Lievremont (capt).

Replacements used: Olivier Olibeau for Couzinet (45 mins), Thierry Dusautoir for Lievremont (52), Federico Martin Aramburu for Traille (53), Benoit Lecouls for Johnson (63), Benjamin Noirot for August (67), Census Johnson for Balan (72). Not used: Manuel Carizza, Julien Dupuy.

Referee: Chris White (England)

Touch Judges: Dave Pearson, Tony Spreadbury (both England); Television Match Official: Geoff Warren (England)