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07th May 2022

Peter O’Mahony heroics in vain as Munster suffer shoot-out heartbreak

Patrick McCarry

MUNSTER 24-24 TOULOUSE (Toulouse win shoot-out 4-2)

So much for Munster to be proud of, but Toulouse have a never-say-die attitude that is simply staggering.

An absolute epic at the Aviva Stadium ended with Toulouse reaching the Champions Cup semi finals by beating a spirited, impressive Munster side 4-2 in a place-kicking competition.

Conor Murray and Antoine Dupont both landed the simpler kicks, in front of the posts, and Munster were first to blink, with Ben Healy missing. Thomas Ramos scored from the same position and put Toulouse 2-1 ahead. Joey Carbery made it 2-2 but Roman Ntamack held his nerve and the French side were 3-2 up.

When Murray missed, from in front but further out, Johann van Graan’s men were really up against it. Even more so after Dupont slotted from the same position.

After having good chances to win it, Healy was then faced with a kick to keep his team in it. He was inaccurate again, though, and Toulouse marched on.

A game for the ages

Munster hit the front through Alex Kendellen, after the young Munster back-row powered over for a try. Toulouse, as they so often have in the past two seasons, answered back with a stunning score.

The Aviva Stadium was a swathe of red and, for most of the afternoon, it was heaving. Ed Sheeran could keep his Thomond Park concert. Dublin 4 was the place to go get loud. “I was concerned that it was going to be a downer,” admitted former Lions captain Sam Warburton on BT Sport, “but the atmosphere here has been so good, and Munster have really fed off that.”

There were square-ups, dust-ups and nigh-on schemozzles in the opening 40 minutes, with both sides climbing into each other. Toulouse got on top at the scrum and hit the front when Matthis Lebel got over in the right-hand corner.

Just as it was looking like an uphill battle against the five-time European kingpins, Josh Wycherley and Chris Farrell had big moments and Keith Earls dotted down in the corner.

Peter O’Mahony and Jack O’Donoghue lead Munster charge

The second half was not long ticking away when Sam Warburton was again raving about Peter O’Mahony and Jack O’Donoghue. First up was O’Donoghue as the Waterford native gobbled up Antoine Dupont and won his side a penalty.

“Huge strength… massive swing of momentum,” Warburton marvelled as the replays rolled. Joey Carbery missed his kick, but Munster fans would soon be celebrating.

Simon Zebo had a great aerial take and, soon after, Chris Farrell had a sumptuous line break. He found Mike Haley in support and the Munster fullback did the rest.

Carbery put Munster 21-14 ahead and then came a moment of controversy, as 6-foot-10 Australian lock Rory Arnold thundered into Zebo but tipped him in making the tackle. In conversation with his TMO, referee Luke Pearce commented:

“From what I’m seeing, first up, he’s tipped him and landed really dangerously… the hit is good, he then takes him past the horizontal and he’s landed on his head. That’s really dangerous… does he land on the back of his head or on his back? If it is his head, it’s a red… Okay, it’s on his back first so, between us, that’s a yellow.”

With Toulouse down to 14 men, Carbery added three more points to the Munster score, and lead. We were then treated to another huge moment, as O’Mahony and O’Donoghue combined to swallow Dupont whole and win another turnover. The Munster captain would end with four turnovers in his lung-busting, 63-minute effort. Warburton gushed:

“I was always going to love this game, being a breakdown nerd… O’Mahony and O’Donoghue are so influential. They’re causing so much damage.

“I think O’Mahony is playing the best rugby of his career… he’s been an absolute warrior today.”

Toulouse bounce back off the ropes

Restored to 15 men, Toulouse came roaring back and Lebel jigged his way through a gap in the red lines to get a converted try. Thomas Ramos then levelled the scores at 24 apiece with a penalty after a big scrum from the reigning champs.

Munster did have a late chance to win all the marbles but Ben Healy, on for Carbery, was just wide with a 56-metre penalty. We were off to extra time.

The first 10 minutes of the extras saw both sides flagging, understandably, with players having to suck deep to make carries and tackles. Healy had another chance to get Munster ahead on the scoreboard, but he pulled his drop goal left and wide.

Ramos was the next to have a drop goal effort, but he also pulled the kick and Munster could breathe again. Pearce awarded a late penalty to Munster, inside their half. Healy was advised to kick for the line and Munster had an attacking platform for one last spurt.

The replacement outhalf had a third and final chance to be the hero and his connection looked good… but the ball drifted right and wide. We were now off to that place-kicking competition.

Toulouse got all four of their kicks and Munster missed three of their five. It was cruel, of course, but Toulouse are a team you must stand back and salute. They will take some beating.

Our Man of the Match: Peter O’Mahony (Munster)

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