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Biarritz Turn On Power To Floor Munster

Biarritz Turn On Power To Floor Munster

Munster failed to score in the second half of Sunday’s Heineken Cup semi-final as Biarritz Olympique’s forwards got a grip on the game and scrum half Dimitri Yachvili kicked them through to an all-French final on May 22.



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Scorers: Biarritz Olympique: Pens: Dimitri Yachvili 6
Munster: Try: Keith Earls; Con: Ronan O’Gara

Two-time champions Munster were firmly in control after a slick try from Keith Earls, converted by Ronan O’Gara, helped them establish a 7-3 interval lead.

But Biarritz, with a bandaged Imanol Harinordoquy typifying the home side’s commitment and sheer grit, ground them into submission in the second half.

They never seriously threatened the whitewash but with Munster falling foul of referee David Pearson’s whistle and nerveless place-kicker Dimitri Yachvili kicking the penalties – six from six attempts – they crept in front.

Starved of possession and struggling to escape their own half, the Irish province faded from contention to ensure their search for a first win in San Sebastian continues – they also lost there at the quarter-final stage in 2005. 

Biarritz have endured a poor season in the French Top 14 with their seventh-place finish not enough to qualify them for next season’s Heineken Cup, making this victory all the more crucial.

It was a stop-start and defence-dominated match, marred by a succession of handling errors that were not entirely explained by the heavy rain that preceded the match.

This repeat of the 2006 final, which Munster edged 23-19 to win their first Heineken Cup title, failed to live up to expectation but remained tense until Biarritz pulled clear late on.

The French club started slowly, however, with Munster enjoying early success at the scrum, winning a penalty at one and disrupting their opponents on a second.

Combined with repeatedly poor hands from the home side, this enabled the Paul O’Connell-less visitors to control the first 10 minutes with full-back Paul Warwick missing a drop goal attempt.

Karmichael Hunt and Iain Balshaw kicked out on the full while the string of dropped passes also began to afflict Munster as it became Denis Hurley’s turn to spill possession.

Springbok centre Jean de Villiers was flattened onto the ground by Benoit August but Munster renewed their offensive and could have surged ahead in the 19th minute.

Using Hurley outside him to create doubt in the Biarritz defence, hooker Jerry Flannery burst into space on a 40-metre charge, O’Gara came in on an angle in support but could not take the pass with Hunt covering.

Flannery was also involved as Munster exploited gaps around the breakdown once again on the half hour mark and this time the move, started by a terrific turnover by de Villiers, resulted in a try.

Donncha O’Callaghan evaded a tackle and marauded into space through the middle, the superb Alan Quinlan kept the move going before Flannery distributed wide where number 8 James Coughlan supplied the scoring pass to Earls to go in behind the posts.

The conversion was added by O’Gara and Biarritz responded with an attack of their own which finished when hooker August was shoved into touch a metre out, with Hurley and Mick O’Driscoll defending well.

The Top 14 side eventually troubled the scoreboard in the 39th minute with a penalty from Yachvili, who added a second shortly into the second half as Flannery was whistled up for a late challenge on Hunt.

de Villiers spotted a slight opening and stepped on the gas with Marcus Horan continuing the move until Flannery knocked on.

Smart kicking from Hunt kept Munster pinned back until O’Gara missed a long range penalty from inside his half, after Biarritz prop Eduard Coetzee had infringed at a ruck.

The tide was turning but the French outfit made a mess of a fine chance when Arnaud Mignardi failed to spot an overlap, giving Balshaw little chance of reaching the line.

They took the lead for the first time in the 65th minute when Warwick was tap-tackled by Trevor Hall when trying to counter from deep. Tomas O’Leary prevented the ball from being released and Yachvili slotted the three points.

Biarritz, whose scrum became a more potent weapon as the game wore on, were expertly tightening the screw and Munster frustratingly could not find an extra gear.

Yachvili landed his fourth successful kick after Hurley was penalised for deliberately throwing the ball into touch, making it 12-7.

Six more points from Yachvili followed as Munster’s discipline crumbled late on to allow Biarritz break clear and secure their path to Paris.

TIME LINE: 28 minutes – Munster try: Keith Earls – 0-5; conversion: Ronan O’Gara – 0-7; 39 mins – Biarritz Olympique penalty: Dimitri Yachvili – 3-7; Half-time – Biarritz Olympique 3 Munster 7; 44 mins – Biarritz Olympique penalty: Dimitri Yachvili – 6-7; 55 mins – Munster penalty: missed by Ronan O’Gara – 6-7; 65 mins – Biarritz Olympique penalty: Dimitri Yachvili – 9-7; 72 mins – Biarritz Olympique penalty: Dimitri Yachvili – 12-7; 78 mins – Biarritz Olympique penalty: Dimitri Yachvili – 15-7; 80 mins – Biarritz Olympique penalty: Dimitri Yachvili – 18-7; Full-time – Biarritz Olympique 18 Munster 7

BIARRITZ OLYMPIQUE: Iain Balshaw; Takudzwa Ngwenya, Arnaud Mignardi, Ayoola Erinle, Jean-Baptiste Gobelet; Karmichael Hunt, Dimitri Yachvili; Eduard Coetzee, Benoit August, Campbell Johnstone, Jerome Thion (capt), Trevor Hall, Magnus Lund, Wenceslas Lauret, Imanol Harinordoquy.

Replacements used: Manuel Carizza for Hall (2-5 mins, blood sub), Julien Peyrelongue for Erinle (48), Fabien Barcella for Coetzee (60), Florian Faure for Harinordoquy (66), Manuel Carizza for Hall (68), Philippe Bidabe for Gobelet (77), Romain Terrain for August (78). Not used: Remy Hugues, Valentin Courrent.

MUNSTER: Paul Warwick; Lifeimi Mafi, Keith Earls, Jean de Villiers, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara (capt), Tomas O’Leary; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Mick O’Driscoll, Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, James Coughlan.

Replacements used: Tony Buckley for Hayes (57 mins), Nick Williams for Coughlan (63), Julien Brugnaut for Horan, Niall Ronan for Quinlan (both 72), Peter Stringer for O’Leary (73), Scott Deasy for Hurley (76), Damien Varley for Flannery (78). Not used: Tom Gleeson.

Referee: Dave Pearson (England)