Howlett's tries make sure the Saints go marching out

Munster 33 Northampton 19: Mass choir in fine voice after All Black wing leads Munster past England's only quarter-finalists

Single-point verdicts in the weekend's first two Heineken Cup quarter-finals had gone before it, but this meeting of former winners finished with a definitive gap in the scores, in class, in nous and in bragging rights. Northampton gave it a good lash, as they say in these parts, but were beaten by a side with more big-game experience in every area, epitomised by Doug Howlett's two tries and Ronan O'Gara's brilliant second-half kicking for position.

The final whistle came a few seconds after O'Gara, the tournament's all-time top scorer by 300-plus points, was shoved over by Northampton's South African lock, Juandre Kruger. The act was more childish than violent but the Saints had lost their rag; Munster don't do haloes and it is up to Northampton to learn the lesson. Munster go on to the semi-final in three weekends' time, against Biarritz in France or, possibly, Spain.

Northampton were the last Guinness Premiership team in the competition, and their director of rugby, Jim Mallinder, said: "It's quite sad for the English game but I suppose that's where we are. There are still some good teams in the Premiership." He and his side probably suspected there would be a difference between lying second in the domestic league and holding the European Challenge and Anglo-Welsh Cups, and bringing off a victory at this Limerick stronghold. If so, they were spot on, and never mind the narrow defeat they had here in the pool in January.

Thomond Park is a redeveloped monument to Munster's contribution to the Heineken Cup, and vice versa. Someone borrowed from Jaws and decided: "You're gonna need a bigger bearpit." Yesterday one of their prime grizzlies, the captain Paul O'Connell, was out injured yet the home side had only one starting forward under 30 – and he was the 29-year-old No 8 James Coughlan. Northampton, with their four young England players, led at half-time having scored a try just before it, but that was as good as it got.

"With the loss of someone like Paul, the rest of the team needed to step up to the mark," said Tony McGahan, the Munster coach. They did that all right, in an opening five minutes when the 2006 and 2008 champions terrorised their conquerors from the 2000 final with the high ball and went 10-0 up with a penalty by O'Gara and a try by the Australian full-back Paul Warwick. A Munster line-out was mauled until Keith Earls was released on the left. The young Lion fed Warwick, who dummied an outside pass and ghosted past James Downey.

Northampton recovered and a fluffed Munster line-out allowed Roger Wilson to snaffle and Soane Tonga'uiha to charge. A ruck penalty under the posts gave the fly-half Steve Myler three points. Then Munster wheeled a scrum illegally and Myler potted that kick too.

The crowd had been whipped up with "Stand Up and Fight" and they didn't mind much if the words were made flesh. Step forward Alan Quinlan, who is better at wind-ups than any Swiss watchmaker. He got into a fight with Bruce Reihana over the latter's scrum-cap and there were oodles of petty scraps, none of which did Northampton any good – not that they could let Munster do what they wanted. A conundrum older than any Irish forward.

A scrum and a series of rucks allowed O'Gara to pass long for Howlett to pirouette past Reihana and Phil Dowson for a 13-6 lead. Quinlan conceded a penalty plus 10 metres for back-chat and Myler made it 13-9. When Dowson led some insistent drives and Myler, Reihana and Ben Foden sent in Jon Clarke for a converted try, Munster needed to regroup.

With the second-half wind behind them, they blew Northampton's house down. Earls shifted to the wing to allow Lifeimi Mafi into midfield but it was the other centre, Jean de Villiers, who sliced Northampton open for Munster's third try, 12 minutes in, with O'Gara converting. O'Gara and Myler then exchanged penalties for Munster to lead 23-19.

The Welsh referee, Nigel Owens, took a belated stand over Munster's continual provocation, penalising John Hayes for holding. Ashton went through on a lovely inside ball by Shane Geraghty, who had come on for Myler shortly before O'Gara's 68th-minute penalty made it 26-19. Ashton passed too early to Kruger and Saints were held out at the corner.

Munster wrapped it all up with another converted try which came from another scrum. Tomas O'Leary, as with De Villiers' score, was pivotal, taking David Wallace's pass and feeding the arch-finisher, Howlett.

Munster P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, J de Villiers, I Dowling (L Mafi, 42); R O'Gara (capt), T O'Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes (T Buckley, 69); D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll; A Quinlan, J Coughlan (H Williams, 62), D Wallace.

Northampton B Foden, C Ashton, J Clarke (J Ansbro, 72), J Downey, B Reihana, S Myler (S Geraghty, 65), L Dickson, S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley (capt), E Murray (B Mujati, 65), C Lawes, J Kruger, P Dowson (M Easter, 72), N Best, R Wilson.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

Semi-final draw

Toulouse/Stade Français v Leinster

Biarritz v Munster

To be played weekend of 1/2 May

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week