Munster miss point as O'Gara puts safety first

N-G Dragons 8 Munster 24
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The Independent Online

Munster's forwards played such a commanding game for an hour here yesterday that there was never the slightest danger of their letting slip this "must win" Heineken Cup game. But a glorious opportunity to snatch a potentially vital bonus point went begging, victim of an ultra-conservative approach. It was as though the prospect of an extra point through four tries never occurred to the Irish side.

Given the advantages of territory and possession Munster enjoyed, this was an unconvincing performance and a chance seriously missed. In a tight group, the lack of adventure was bewildering.

Ronan O'Gara constantly kicked for position, preferring to focus solely on his forwards' superiority than risk anything out wide. The first piece of attacking ingenuity by Munster came 10 minutes from the end with a clever O'Gara cross kick which put full-back Mossie Lawlor clear, although his kick was scrambled into touch.

But that apart, all Munster's plentiful possession, especially from the line-out and in the loose, where David Wallace was especially effective, brought only modest reward.

Munster led 9-0 early on through drop goals from Lawlor and O'Gara. In between O'Gara kicked a penalty, and he landed another in first-half injury time when the Dragons were again offside. The only try of the first half came from the impressive Denis Leamy, who finished off a drive to the Dragons' line by the Munster pack after a line-out win. Seconds before the half-time whistle Craig Warlow finally got the Dragons on the scoreboard with a simple penalty.

Marcus Horan crashed over for a second try after 64 minutes, from another line-out drive. O'Gara converted to make it 24-3 and there was time for Munster to add further tries. But, astonishingly, the idea of a bonus point from four tries never seemed to occur and when their ambition died the Dragons steadily worked their way into the game and had the best of the last 15 minutes.

Even so it was not until injury time that Gareth Chapman finished off a back-line move to reduce the gap. It made no difference to either side but Munster's lack of adventure could well come back to haunt them. There were too many mistakes made by both sides in a scrappy game in which two players were shown the yellow card - the Dragons' Sione Tuipulotu and Munster's Barry Murphy.

Newport: A Thomas; G Chapman, S Tuipulotu (J Bryant, 66), C Sweeney, R Fussell; C Warlow, G Cooper (G Baber, 71); A Black (D Maddocks, 80), S Jones, R Thomas (G Robinson, 59), I Gough, P Sidoli (L Charteris, 59), A Hall (R Bryan, 71), M Owen, J Ringer.

Munster: M Lawlor; J Kelly, G Connolly (B Murphy, 75), T Halstead, A Horgan; R O'Gara (J Manning, 80), P Stringer; M Horan (F Roche, 80), J Flannery (D Fogarty, 80), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan (T Hogan, 80), M O'Driscoll, D Leamy (S Keogh, 80), A Foley (T O'Leary, 78), D Wallace.

Referee: A Spreadbury (England).