O'Gara the man with Munster kick

Bourgoin 17 Munster 18
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The Independent Online

There is a lot of work for that genial Sydneysider Alan Gaffney to do if the coach of proud Munster is to see his side once again march to the final stages of the Heineken Cup.

They may have scraped through their opening encounter against Bourgoin by the skin of their teeth and the boot of Ronan O'Gara, but this looked like a side that had forgotten how to play together.

Which is about right, as the majority of them have been on Gaffney's home turf in sunnier climes. They have only had one game, a good win against Cardiff in the Celtic League at home last weekend, and they must have been heartened by Rob Henderson's return.

But they were hardly able to string together a decent set of moves The misty ground was penetrated by a mix of freezing damp and boiling emotions, but the brightest lights in this small town (25,500) between Lyon and Grenoble shone mainly on the men from Munster.

French hearts may be big and the wallet of the club president, food manufacturing millionaire Pierre Martinet, generous but it has not been generous enough to stop the squad being cut from 33 to 27 under the managership of former France captain and Gloucester coach Philippe St André. The team have prospered during the Rugby World Cup, though they took a knock when beaten by a disputed last-minute try at Castres in the Radio Sud Championship, and suffered a further setback losing at Brive last weekend.

Coach Laurent Seigne has also had a number of injury problems, not least among them to the neck of prop Olivier Milloud when packing down for France against England in the World Cup semi-final, so the front eight looked young and vulnerable.

In contrast Munster had, apart from captain and flanker Jim Williams, World Cup players from one to 10, with John Kelly on the wing. They needed all of them, especially in defence, during a first half in which they failed to find anyattacking pattern or rhythm. Jeremy Staunton, in the full-back role envisaged for Christian Cullen whose shoulder injury has prevented him from pulling on a Munster shirt, may have his magic days, but this was a very droopy wand night.

Half of O'Gara's six of the best were needed to stay even with Bourgoin's top scorer, full-back Alexandre Péclier, who followed a penalty with two monster drop goals. Bourgoin's only other World Cup representative, the flanker Sébastien Chabal, was halted by Staunton near the line in the first half but was unstoppable in the second-half repeat to put Bourgoin in the lead.

Indiscipline, which had been evident throughout, gave O'Gara the chances he needed to secure the four points in Pool Five, but there was no chance of a bonus point.

Bourgoin: A Péclier; G Esterhuizen (A Forest, 40), G Davis, F Fritz, J-F Coux; B Boyet, C Laussucq; W Bonet, J-P Bonrepaux (B Cabello, 48), P Peyron, J Pierre, P Papé, A Bias, S Chabal, P Raschi (capt).

Munster: J Staunton (M Lawlor, 70); J Kelly, M Mullins, J Holland (R Henderson, 66), S Payne; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, F Sheahan, J Hayes, P O'Connell, D O'Callaghan, J Williams (capt), D Wallace, A Foley.

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales).

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