Round-up: O'Gara's late kick rescues Munster from opening upset

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The Independent Online

Ronan O'Gara's penalty with three minutes remaining on the clock saved Munster from an embarrassing start to their defence of the Heineken Cup last night. His late Houdini act salvaged a 19-17 triumph over Montauban at a nervous Thomond Park. The holders looked in dire trouble when two minutes earlier Petre Mitu had given the visitors the slenderest of leads but the Ireland fly-half rode to the rescue.

Munster had looked comfortable after Barry Murphy's first-half try, which followed O'Gara's first penalty, gave the Irishmen a 10-3 lead. The centre completed a move which involved Peter Stringer, O'Gara, Jerry Flannery and Doug Howlett, by stepping inside a tackle and grounding over the line

But the French side, who put the first points on the board with a Mitu penalty, proved resilient. Those three points were the perfect start for Montauban in what was their first ever match in the competition.

After the break, Mitu missed with a penalty but made amends soon after by slotting the ball between the posts to reduce his side's deficit to four points. O'Gara and Mitu traded penalties before Montauban took the lead with a try by Sylvain Jonnet.

Alan Quinlan's misdirected pass set up Jonnet and the winger won the race to the line to score. Mitu was off target with the conversion attempt and then O'Gara missed with a penalty. O'Gara was successful with another kick but Munster's performance was still error-ridden. Mitu landed a penalty in the 75th minute but the stand-off replied to ensure victory, much to the relief of the 23,500 crowd.

Perpignan ran out comfortable winners to kick off their Pool Three campaign at Stade Aimé Giral. A penalty try plus scores from Jérôme Porical and Jean-Philippe Grandclaude paced the hosts to a 27-16 victory.

At Stade Yves Du Manoir, tries from François Trinh-Duc, Thierry Brana and Peter van Niekerk left Bristol pointless after a 33-15 defeat to Montpellier in their opening match in the European Challenge Cup last night.

The Worcester coach, Mike Ruddock, hopes that a victory today against the Italian side Petrarca will launch another all-out assault on the European Challenge Cup. The Warriors reached last season's final, losing 24-16 to Bath at Kingsholm and Worcester, along with Saracens and London Irish, are one of the favourites to ensure the trophy stays in England.

Ruddock said yesterday: "It is all about building momentum. It was great to get off to a [winning] start in the EDF Energy Cup. We want to do that in Europe and get two away wins during the next fortnight."

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