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Down To The Wire For Munster

Down To The Wire For Munster

Munster turned a seventeen point deficit into an all important bonus point as the pool goes down to the wire next weekend.

English referee Rob Debney will not be holidaying in the French province of Clermont any time soon after infuriating fans at San Marcel-Michilen Stadium.

Clermont Auvergne beat Munster 26-19 in the Heineken Cup Pool 5 match, but Debney was the centre of attention after dishing out three yellow cards to home players, but failing to see a Jerry Flannery stamp to the head of France back-rower Julien Bonnaire.

Munster’s losing bonus point means Clermont cannot top the pool and they now need a remarkable series of results in other pools to go through as one of the two best runners-up.

The home side raced to a 23-6 lead, but were rocked by the sin-binnings and the boot of Ronan O’Gara brought the visitors back into the match.

With one round to go, Wasps sit on 18 points, Munster on 15 and Clermont on 14.

Wasps have to go to Munster’s Thomond Park next Saturday, while Clermont will rate their chances against a Llanelli Scarlets team that are not showing well in Europe this season.

The first quarter belonged to Clermont as the Munster players consistently failed to clear their line.

The Irish province made one David Wallace-inspired visit to Clermont territory, with O’Gara opening the scoring with a penalty goal, but the home side hit straight back with a try to scrum-half Pierre Mignoni.

Fly-half Brock James converted Mignoni’s effort, and added two penalty goals as the Munster pack began retreating at a great rate of knots.

James had barely thrown the kicking tee off the field when he was called on to convert a try to hooker Mario Ledesma, and the Munster players were staring at a 20-3 scoreline.

Clermont lock Loic Jacquet was binned for a professional foul, and the home side were rocked in the opening minute of the second half when impressive winger Julien Malzieu was yellow-carded for a professional foul.

Such was Clermont’s dominance at that stage of the game; Munster could not even score against 13 men.

Malzieu returned to the field in time to watch James’ penalty goal put his side 17 points clear, but a break inspired by Munster’s replacement prop Tony Buckley gave centre Lifeimi Mafi a clear run to the posts and visiting fans a glimmer of hope.

Back-rower Alexandre Audebert became the third man to see referee Debney’s yellow card, and O’Gara’s penalty from in front of the posts moved the visitors into the all important bonus point territory.

O’Gara and James swapped late penalty goals but the Clermont players looked the more unhappy as they trudged off the field after James had miscued a late drop goal attempt.