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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence