As it happened: Sunday's Heineken Cup action

Carl O'Malley Fri, Jan 18
Racing Metro
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  • 12:11
    It's another big day for Irish rugby, not just for Munster, but for Leinster also. The European champions are hanging on by their fingernails after yesterday's bonus point win against Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park.
  • 12:12

    Almost inevitably, their fatre lies with Munster, who will definitely end the hopes of their fierce rivals with a bonus-point win over Racing Metro at Thomond Park this afternoon.

  • 12:14
    That should be enough to see Munster through. If they pick up five points, only the outside chance of two losing bonus points for Toulouse at Leicester later this afternoon, would end their Cup campaign.
  • 12:17
    Just half an hour away from kick-off, then. Here's a look ahead to the game from Gerry Thornley and another from Gavin Cummiskey.
  • 12:21
  • 12:22
  • 12:24
    Any predictions, thoughts, musings? On rugby, or life in general. Be sure not to keep them to yourself.
  • 12:36

    Not much build up to speak of, as yet, the Sky rabble are preferring to focus on Saracens as they look to secure a home quarter-final. Ulster are vulnerable in fourth spot after their first win in France against Castres yesterday. Here's how it stands right now.

    1 Harlequins Pool 3 - 28pts, 28 tries, +172 pts diff. Completed pool – Q home

    2 Clermont P5 - 28pts, 23 tries, +140 Completed pool Q home

    3 Toulon P6 - 23pts, 23 tries, +102. Completed pool – Q

    4 ULSTER P4 - 23pts, 12 tries, +71 Completed pool - Q

    5 Toulouse P2 - 18pts, 14 tries, +52 (v Leicester (a), Sun, 3.0)

    6 Saracens P1 - 18pts, 10 tries, +71 (v Edinburgh (h), Sun, 12.45)

    7 Montpellier P6 - 22pts, 17 tries, +59 Completed pool - q

    ­8 LEINSTER P5 - 20pts, 12 tries, +28. Completed pool

    9 Leicester P2 - 16pts, 13 tries, +12 (v Toulouse (h), Sun, 3.0)

    10 MUNSTER P1 - 15pts, 9 tries, +37 (v Racing Metro (h), Sun, 12.45)

  • 12:40
    "Imminent doom" has been the best motivator for Munster in the past, says Frakie Sheahan, but without both of their totems, in Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara, for the first time in 14 campaigns, can they do what is required like they have so many times in the past?
  • 12:41
    Conditions look perfect at Thomond. No rain, no snow, just a crisp winter's day and an expectant, if a little nervy, crowd.
  • 12:44

    Here are the teams. Big day for Ian Keatlety at outhalf, while the Parisians have not exactly turned up in  force, having changed all but one of the team that took the game to Saracens last week.

    MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry, W Du Preez, J Ryan, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, C Laulala.

    RACING METRO 92: G Germain; J Jane, G Bousses, A Dumoulin, S Bobo; O Barkley, M Belie; J Brugnaut, B Noirot, B Salemane Sa; K Ghezal, F Metz; A Battut, B Le Roux, J Cronje (capt). Replacements: Thomas Bianchin, Andrea Lo Cicero, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Jone Qovu Nailiko, Benjamin Fall, Santiago Dellape, Sebastien Descons, Sakiusa Matadigo.

    Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

  • 12:46

    Dougie Howlett leads Munster out to a typical Thomond welcome. Keatley struts out, cock of the walk, nodding in appreciation of the reception. He looks anything but jittery as he gets us underway.

  • 12:46
    Munster reclaim possession and immediately Keatley puts one up in the air, but Racing claim it.
  • 12:49
    Cleared long by the visitors and Keatley runs it back, Racing penalised for not releasing after the tackle.

    Nothing comes from it and Racing attack before the scrum is awarded to Munster after good choke tackling from Earls and Zebo
  • 12:50
    Munster went early and it has actually been a nervy start from the homeside, after Keatley kicked that previous penalty long and now Racing have the put in.
  • 12:52
    Racing go wide and Earls gets a boot to the loose ball. Munster pile on the pressure and Antoine Battut has been sent off for Racing!!

    Wayne Barnes indicates he saw a knee to the head.

  • 12:53
    Battut motioned towards a Munster ceann, alright, but that looks a little harsh. Not sure it was as deliberate as Barnes seems to have thought.
  • 12:55
    Nevertheless, Munster have it in the 22 and are taking it on through the forwards before Earls gets it from Keatley.

    Earls spurns a big overlap and cuts inside, stopped yards from the line and it's a penalty to Munster. Barnes giving a bit of a talking to Racing captain Cronje.
  • 12:55
    We've just seen another replay of the Battut incident and Barnes had no choice.
  • 12:56
    9th min: Scrum Munster and the pen goes Racing's way this time. Opportunity lost for Munster.
  • 12:57
    Racing clear to the halfway, Munster lineout and they attack through Simon Zebo before Racing are awarded the scrum after Munster knocked on at the back of the ruck.
  • 12:59

    Keatley boots the ball right in Barnes's mush and the ref goes down.

    A Munster medic jokes with the ref: "You remember everything? What's the score, what's the score?"

  • 13:00
    The ref is asked if he is okay and he replies: "We'll find out when I start running".
  • 13:00
    His first job is to ping Munster for a frontrow infringement, binding on the arm, perhaps.

    A shot at the posts for Racing.
  • 13:01
    Fullback Germain makes no mistake. 3-0 Racing, after all that.
  • 13:02
    It's 6-0 to Saracens against Edinburgh after two Owen Farrell penalties.
  • 13:03
    14th minute:  Munster go through the phases and a wild pass fom Mike Sherry flies into touch.
  • 13:03
    Munster too quick to go wide, according to Sheahan.
  • 13:04
    Donnacha Ryan puts in a great tackle on scrumhalf Belie adn the put in is theirs on the Racing 22.
  • 13:06
    Scrum is reset after the frontrows pop up. Second time is better and out to Keatley. Then Downey takes it on adn Zebo makes ground but the penalty goes against Munster after O'Callaghan is caught offside.
  • 13:07

    The clearance lands in the commentary box with Sheahan and his awful darts see him hit the linesman. Some things never change.

  • 13:08
    Into the 19th minute and Racing's 14 men will tire but Munster have a lot of work to do on their own game before they can think of a bonus-point win.
  • 13:09
    Scrumhalf Belie is off injured for Racing and he's replaced by Descons.
  • 13:10
    Knocked on by former Munster man Julien Brugnaut.
  • 13:11
    Munster's put in just outside their 22. They go long and it's returned to touch. A home lineout inside the Munster half.
  • 13:13
    Downey tries to punch a hole, then Jones. A nice pop pass from Keatley sets Downey on his way again. Not much progress in terms of territory, though.

    An ill-advised pass from Zebo in the tackle forces another knock-on.
  • 13:13
    Daniel Sexton Don't know why Racing are expected to implode with 14-men - sure Munster won stuff for years only playing with 10.
  • 13:14
    Hoho! A relation of that outhalf fella who plays for them there European champions?
  • 13:14

    A lovely little kick down the blindside from Sebastien Descons pins Munster inside their 22.

  • 13:15
    Munster claim the setpiece and keep it tight, Murray clears downfield and somehow it stays in from Zebo and Munster roll on with O'Callaghan. Nearly up to the Racing 22 now.
  • 13:16
    It's heating up a bit and there're digs flying in.
  • 13:18
    Barnes and his assistants opt to stay with a penalty to Munster. Descons had kicked the ball out of Murray's hand and the scrumhalf reacted by throwing his opposite number to the ground. It all kicked off from there but the free is with Munster and Zebo finds a good touch deep in the Racing 22.
  • 13:18
    Ryan takes and Thomond roars them on.

  • 13:19
    On they go and they are within metres.
  • 13:19

    Murray goes it alone, he has players hanging out of him but somehow he makes it over the line with the help of Downey.
  • 13:20
    Keatley sneaks it inside the left-hand post. 7-3 Munster
  • 13:21
    Keatley puts one high in the air and Germain has loads of time but drops it with the Munster crowd roaring in his ear. Scrum Munster on the 10 metre line. There has been a significant momentum shift here in the last few minutes.  That scrap did them the world of good.
  • 13:23


    Great work by Sherry to pop a quick pass to Kilcoyne, who barrels his way into the 22. Fast ball out wide finds Zebo in the corner and he strolls over unctouched. Smashing try by Munster

  • 13:23
    Keatley misses the extras but that's a nine-point lead for the homeside with half an hour gone
  • 13:24
    Munster halfway to that crucial bonus-point win now. Hard to see them not getting it from here.
  • 13:25
    At Vicarage Road, it's 14-7 to Saracens but they need three more tries to add to Chris Asthon's effort to oust Ulster from the fourth seed spot.
  • 13:26
    While I was figuring that out, Racing added another penalty. 12-6 the score at Thomond.
  • 13:28
    Tommy O'Donnell brings Munster forward after Bobo's up and under is fielded by Howlett. Barnes awards the penalty after a shoulder charge from Cronje and Keatley finds touch.
  • 13:29
    34th minute: Ryan takes it on, Keatley chips through and Germain gathers. But Downey's tap tackle on the fullback is perfect and Munster win a penalty when he doesn't release.

    Good attacking platform out of touch here. Five yards out.
  • 13:30

    It's Mike Sherry who thunders over, with help from Peter O'Mahony, after a great setpiece from Munster
  • 13:31

    27th min: Keatley hits the post with the conversion. 17-6 to Munster.

  • 13:34
    Smahing work from Sherry again at the back of the maul sets up Murray who slices through the Racing cover before flashing it wide. It comes to Earls and again he cuts inside instead of using Zebo out wide.

    It's recycled to Keatley, whose chip through to Howlett runs dead with the help of the Racing defence. Nothing illegal, says Barnes.
  • 13:35
    39th minute:  Murray claims a racing clearance and Zebo gets a chance this time, makes it to the 22. Munster infringe, however, and Racing clear.
  • 13:38
    Stunning break from Earls down the right handside, a deft kick behind the defender and another hack on sees him just beaten to the ball by a Racing defender, who puts in touch and the halftime whistle is blown.
  • 13:39
    Half Time: There would seem to be only one outcome possible from this match now. Munster need just one try to all but guarantee a spot in the 1/4 finals. Champions Leinster are heading out, surely.
  • 13:49
    Ciaran Dal Leinster are doomed. Munster have 40 minutes to get one try. Some task
  • 13:52
    Yes, their fate looks sealed, alright. The bigger question appears to be whether Ulster an hold on to the fourth seeding. They need Saracens to fail to score four tries against Edinburgh and for Toulouse to do the same away to Leicester.
  • 13:53
    We're back on at Thomond and O'Mahony appears to have suffered from a 'low' tackle, if you know wharra mean!
  • 13:54
    Angus Looks like Edinburgh winning is only hope for Leinster. Anything is possible!
  • 13:54
    Not really, Ashton has just got a second try for Saracens. 19-7 to them now.
  • 13:56
    Racing on the attack now but Germain spills it and it's a Munster scrum on their 10 metre line.
  • 13:58
    Munster break up the right with Felix Jones and O'Donnell. Racing kill the ball and Keatley finds touch. Lineout Munster. This try could come early.
  • 13:58
    Nope. They knock on, according to Barnes. Scrum Racing, yards from their line
  • 14:00
    Barkley clears for Racing to the 10 metre line.

    And there's anothertry for Saracens. Tighthead Matt Stevens is the man. They too need just one more now
  • 14:02
    Back at Thomond and O'Donnell makes ground to the 22. Then Ryan takes it on, then Sherry, Kilcoyne batters his way through three and Keatley pokes one in behind for Howlett but it's agonisingly long.
  • 14:04

    Thomond erupts for Simon Zebo who takes a pass from Jones after the restart, sends a grubber behind three Racing defenders and collects it again to scamper over.

    A beautiful try from the Ireland man. And a crucial one, too.
  • 14:04
    Keatley converts this one. 24-6 Munster after 50 minutes
  • 14:07
    Racing come again, to their credit, and Munster are offside on the halfway.

    Paul O'Connell and Alan Quinlan drinning like schoolgirls on the sidelines as 'The Fields' rings out around Thomond.
  • 14:08
    Frankie Sheahan not getting carried away. He still thinks Toulouse and Leicester are a danger. Which they are, of course.
  • 14:09

    Hat-trick for Zebo in the corner. With the 'go fast' stripes shaved into his head, he darts over from five yards after being fed in by Earls.
  • 14:10
    Keatley hits the post for the second time this afternoon.
  • 14:13

    Approaching hte hour mark now and it all looks a formality for Munster. Saracens have made a few changes, Ashton is one of those who has come off. They still need one more try to relegate Ulster to fifth spot.

  • 14:15
    It's a Munster scrum near their 22 and Barnes whistles after they dominate. Keatley finds touch at halfway.

    Damien Varley, on for Sherry, overthrows the lineout and it's back with Racing.
  • 14:18
    They do the same in a promising position and Zebo clears. Germain puts it up in the air and O'Donnell returns it with a surging run but his pass after a 50m run is just a little reckless and it's knocked on.
  • 14:18
    Earls has been replaced by JJ Hanrahan.
  • 14:19
    Munster penalised for crossing.

    Murray's been in a bit of a scuffle. Nothing to worry about, he won.
  • 14:21
    O'Callaghan unable to catch Keatley's grubber kick down the left wing. Not his forte, in fairness.
  • 14:23
    Racing attack and make it to the Munster 22 but they are penalised again and Munster win the scrum. They are trying but they look tired at this stage and the error count is growing.
  • 14:23
    68 minutes and it's a Munster scrum on their 22.
  • 14:25
    Ulster still fourth seeds. Saracens seem to be finding it hard to get over the line one last time against Edinburgh.

    O'Mahony is replaced by Paddy Butler.Big game for the former andd good to see the latter get a chance. He's straight into it with a good carry up field and Munster are on the front foot again.
  • 14:27
    Bad news for Ulster, Saracens have their bonus point try and move into fourth spot. That means Mark Anscombe's side will be away in the quarter-finals. 
  • 14:28
    Charlie Hodgson scored that try for Saracens.
  • 14:29
    Munster penalised for crossing again after a promising break. They turn it over again but Racing get their hands on it again and run it back. Very loose and open now. There's another try here for the homeside.
  • 14:31
    73 minutes gone and Munster have it back on the halfway as Murray is replaced by Duncan Williams. Murray had a good game, plenty of skill, plus a bit of fight that set the tone in the first half when it was needed.
  • 14:31
    John Ryan is on for Kilcoyne and his Heineken Cup debut.
  • 14:34

    Correction: It was Botha, who Ryan replaced.

  • 14:35
    Munster denied a try after a forward pass denies Bily Holand (on for Ryan). 

    There is one last chance, but obstruction is called against them and Racing clear.
  • 14:36
    Racing are down to 13 men after Masi Matadigo was binned for something or other. Don't blame me, Sky missed it too.
  • 14:37
    Chris Wyles has added a fifth try for Saracens. Final score at Vicarage Road is 40-7.
  • 14:39
    Racing search for a consolation here and Munster are pinged for offside. Paddy Butler has been binned for playing the man in the air and being caught offside.
  • 14:40
    Racing denied a try, harshly maybe, by the TMO after captain Cronje reached out for the line and edged it over the whitewash with a double movement.

  • 14:42
    THAT'S IT. Five tries for Munster, three for Zebo, and they, barring highly unlikely result at Welford Road, are heading for the 1/4 finals. Leinster are out.
  • 14:47

    So, as it stands Munster are set to play Harlequins and Ulster will travel to Saracens.

    1 Harlequins Pool 3 - 28pts, 28 tries, +172 pts diff. Completed pool – Q home

    2 Clermont P5 - 28pts, 23 tries, +140 Completed pool Q home

    3 Toulon P6 - 23pts, 23 tries, +102. Completed pool – Q

    4 Saracens P1 - 23pts, 15 tries, +104 Completed pool Q


    5 ULSTER P4 - 23pts, 12 tries, +71 Completed pool - q

    6 Toulouse P2 - 18pts, 14 tries, +52 (v Leicester (a), Sun, 3.0)

    7 Montpellier P6 - 22pts, 17 tries, +59 Completed pool - q

    ­8 MUNSTER P1 - 20pts, 14 tries, +60 Completed pool - q


    9 Leicester P2 - 16pts, 13 tries, +12 (v Toulouse (h), Sun, 3.0

  • 14:55
  • 14:55
    Munster's Simon Zebo scores the fourth and bonus point try against Racing. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
    Munster's Simon Zebo scores the fourth and bonus point try against Racing. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
  • 15:11
    Leicester lead at a snowy Welford Road, by three points to nil after a Toby Flood penalty. A bright start from the homeside.
  • 15:19

    Miserable conditions at Welford Road, the snow is chucking it down. You wouldn't fancy being a winger in those conditions. Still 3-0 to Leicester after Beauxis misses a penalty. Can't see there be many tries in this one.

  • 15:36
    Still 3-0 to Leicester at Welford Road. Any chance of Munster being cruelly ousted from their 1/4 final berth is fading fast.

    Elsewhere, Chelsea did their best to to throw away a two goal lead after goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard, but Theo Walcott's effort was all Arsenal could muster at Stamford Bridge.
  • 15:46
    Toby Flood has added another penalty for Leicester, but Louis Picamoles was denied a try by the TMO soon afterwards.
  • 15:50

    Jut before halftime at Welford Road and Flood has added a third penalty, this time a monster kick from the halfway.

  • 16:13

    So, lets do this again, just for giggles.


    1 Harlequins Pool 3 - 28pts, 28 tries, +172 pts diff. Completed pool – Q home

    2 Clermont P5 - 28pts, 23 tries, +140 Completed pool Q home

    3 Toulon P6 - 23pts, 23 tries, +102. Completed pool – Q home

    4 Saracens P1 - 23pts, 15 tries, +104 Completed pool Q home

    5 ULSTER P4 - 23pts, 12 tries, +71 Completed pool - q

    6 Leicester P2 - 20pts, 13 tries, +21  9-0 v Toulouse (h/t)

    7 Montpellier P6 - 22pts, 17 tries, +59 Completed pool - q

    ­8 MUNSTER P1 - 20pts, 14 tries, +60 Completed pool - q

    Quarter-final draw - As it stands

    Harlequins v Munster

    Clermont v Montpellier

    Toulon Leicester

    Saracens v Ulster

  • 16:15
    And so that brings us to the Amlin Challenge Cup

    Below are the qualifiers from the Heineken Cup

    9 LEINSTER P5 - 20pts, 12 tries, +28.

    10 Toulouse P2 - 18pts, 14 tries, +43 0-9 v Leicester (h/t)

    11 Biarritz P3 – 15pts, 14 tries, +22

    Amlin Cup quarter-final qualifiers after pool stages

    1 Bath 29pts, 36 tries

    2 Gloucester 27pts, 19 tries

    3 Perpignan 25pts, 42 tries

    4 Wasps 25pts, 30 tries

    5 Stade Francais 25 pts, 25 tries

    Quarter-final draw

    1 Bath v Stade Francais

    2 Gloucester v Biarritz

    3 Perpignan v Toulouse

    4 Wasps v Leinster

  • 16:18
    Munster fans you will like this next one.
  • 16:18
  • 16:22
    Yoann Huget has crossed for Toulouse at Welford Road, so those predictions looking a little shakier now. Beauxis missed the conversion. 9-5 to Leicester.

    Toulouse just need a draw to qualify as Pool 2 winners.
  • 16:46
    Still 9-5 at Welford Road for Leicester, so no danger now to Munster, but all to play for still for the two teams on the park with just seven minutes remaining.
  • 16:51
    Toulouse have a lineout yards from the Leicester line after a great kick from Beauxis. Three minutes left and the French side could nick it here.
  • 16:52
    They knock on but have a penalty after Leicester go off their feet. They head for touch. In these conditions this is risky.
  • 16:52
    And Leicester steal it! Youngs clears the danger.
  • 16:56

    That's it. A huge scare for Leicester at the death but they take the final 1/4 final berth as Pool 2 winners.

    The Tigers will travel to Toulon for the quarters.

    Finalised quarter-final draw

    Harlequins v Munster

    Clermont v Montpellier

    Toulon v Leicester

    Saracens v Ulster

  • 17:18

    So, London's calling for the Irish provinces. Here's an overview of the situation, and the semi-final draw, which has just been made.

    Ulster will host Toulon or Leicester if they beat Saracens, while Munster's reward for a win over Harlequins will be a trip to Clermont or Montpellier.

    That's home country advantage for Ulster, so will do their hosting at the Aviva Stadium.

    Semi-final draw

    1 Saracens/Ulster v Toulon/Leicester
    2 Clermont/Montpellier v Harlequins/Munster

    To be played on the weekend of April 26th-28th

    Heineken Cup Final will take place at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on May 18th at 5pm

  • 17:23

    Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final draw (home ground advantage)

    1 Perpignan/Toulouse v Bath/Stade Francais

    2 Wasps/Leinster v Gloucester/Biarritz

    To be played on the weekend of April 26th-28th 

    Amlin Cup Final will take place at the RDS in Dublin on May 17th at 8pm

  • 17:30
  • 17:53
    It's safe to say Rob Penney feels his Munster side is heading in the right direction and those people in the "long grass" won't be showing their faces anytime to soon.

    "If we hadn't (reached the quarter-finals) the people would be in the long grass, there would have been a lot of bullets being fired," Penney said