Rugby Union: O'Gara gives joy to Limerick

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RONAN O'GARA kicked 22 points as Munster torpedoed Pontypridd's hopes of making an early impact on Pool D of the Heineken European Cup in Limerick yesterday. The fly-half landed five penalties, two conversions and a drop goal as Munster extended their four-year unbeaten home record in the competition with a 32-10 victory.

The first of Munster's two tries came when the flanker Alan Quinlan barged over after half an hour, and the centre Killian Keane completed the scoring in the closing minutes with a 40-yard dash to the line following an interception. Gareth Wyatt crossed for Pontyypridd, while Brett Daley supplied a conversion and a penalty.

Treviso were poised to upset Montferrand in their Pool E encounter only for the French visitors to rally after the interval. Two penalties from Corrado Pilat put the Italian champions 6-3 ahead at the break, but a penalty from Gerald Merceron kept Montferrand, last season's European Shield winners, in touch. Pilat landed three more penalties in the second half, but Nicolas Nadau and Sebastien Viars went over and Merceron landed two further penalties and a conversion to ease Mont- ferrand to a 21-15 success.

In a bid to put their World Cup flop behind them, Italy have named the former All Blacks prop Brad Johnstone to replace Massimo Mascioletti as their coach for the forthcoming Six Nations' Championship. The 49-year- old New Zealander, who coached the Italian club Aquila from 1989 to 1991, will step down as the coach of Fiji in a month's time to take up his new job on a two-year-contract.

London Irish swept aside the 1997 European Cup winners Brive 37-21 in Pool G of the European Shield at The Stoop and Bedford continued their recovery from the brink of financial collapse with an impressive 28-18 victory over newly wealthy Newport in Pool B. Gloucester, currently riding high in Allied Dunbar Premiership One, made it a hat-trick of prized scalps for English clubs with a 22-13 Pool E success over Biarritz at Kingsholm, but Sale failed to follow suit, going down 28-16 at home to Perpignan. The Sale flanker Andy Morris and his Perpignan counterpart Patrick Furet were both sent off.

Worcester made it nine wins in nine league outings when they thrashed Waterloo 78-10, with James Jenner running in three of their 12 tries. They lead Premiership Two by two points from Leeds, who won 25-12 at Coventry. Rotherham, for whom Mike Umaga kicked 21 points, moved up to third with a 36-15 home success over fourth-placed Exeter. The division's other hat- trick of tries was scored by Duncan Roke for Henley in their 29-18 eclipse of Moseley.