O'Gara gets his kicks

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The Independent Online

Munster fly-Half Ronan O'Gara kicked 22 of his side's points as Pontypridd's hopes of making an early impact on this season's Heineken Cup received a serious jolt. Pontypridd were caught offside far too often for their own good, and Munster made them pay by extending a record that has seen them unbeaten in European competition at Limerick's Thomond Park for four seasons.

Munster fly-Half Ronan O'Gara kicked 22 of his side's points as Pontypridd's hopes of making an early impact on this season's Heineken Cup received a serious jolt. Pontypridd were caught offside far too often for their own good, and Munster made them pay by extending a record that has seen them unbeaten in European competition at Limerick's Thomond Park for four seasons.

Full-back Brett Davey gave Pontypridd a third-minute lead with a penalty, but O'Gara cancelled that out two minutes later and then kicked his second to edge the home side in front.

Pontypridd's reply was not long in coming. When a kick by Munster's full-back, Michael Mullins, failed to find touch, Pontypridd flanker Geraint Lewis was quick to gather the ball. The Wales international fed No 8 Dale McIntosh, who flicked it on to Davey, but the chance seemed lost when the ball went to ground. The bounce, though, went in Pontypridd's favour and wing Gareth Wyatt picked up the loose ball and sidestepped his way to the line.

Davey added the conversion, but what should have been a platform from which Pontypridd could launch a victory bid collapsed beneath them as Munster clawed their way back into the game with a third penalty and a drop goal by the oustanding O'Gara before sending the crowd into a frenzy on the half-hour when flanker Alan Quinlan barged his way over in the corner after a rolling maul. O'Gara again converted to give Munster a 19-10 interval lead.

Pontypridd coach Richie Collins made three tactical substitutions in the 48th minute when he brought on Lee Jarvis for Ceri Sweeney, centre Jason Lewis for John Bryant and hooker Nalu Tau for veteran Mike Griffiths, but despite almost constant pressure the Welsh side could not find a way through. Twice Wyatt found himself with the space to make inroads, but on neither occasion could Pontypridd get the final pass to him, and Munster made them pay with two further penalties from O'Gara, both from relatively straightforward positions after the Welsh had needlessly strayed offside.

Pontypridd sealed their own fate in the closing minutes when a wayward pass by Jarvis was intercepted by centre Killian Keane, who raced 40 metres to the line before crossing under the posts for O'Gara to convert.

Munster: M Mullins; J Kelly, K Keane, C Mahony (J Staunton, 60) A Horgan; R O'Gara, P Stringer (T Tierney, 75); P Clohessy (M Horan, 75) K Wood, J Hayes, M Galwey (captain), J Langford, A Quinlan, D Wallace, A Foley.

Pontypridd: B Davey; R Greenslade-Jones, J Bryant (J Lewis 48), J Colderley, G Wyatt; C Sweeney (L Jarvis, 48), P John (capt); M Griffiths (N Tau, 48), F Vinupola (G Williams, 71), S Cronk, W James, I Gough, G P Lewis (M Lloyd, 68), R Parkes (R Sidoli, 71m), D McIntosh (M Lloyd, 58-66).

Referee: B Campsall (England).

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