Munster 33 Toulouse 40
THE brilliant half-back pairing of Romain Ntamack and Antoine Dupont inspired Toulouse to victory over Munster in an extremely entertaining Heineken Champions Cup last 16 tie at Thomond Park.
Toulouse started the game playing at lightning pace, with Ntamack and Dupont cutting through the Munster defence, forcing a number of early penalty concessions, and referee Wayne Barnes sent Chris Farrell to the sin bin as early as the third minute, as Ntamack kicked the visitors into an early lead.
Ntamack then missed another penalty from range in the 10th minute as the Top 14 leaders dominated the early exchanges, although one impressive series of play from Munster in the 13th minute, where Joey Carbery and Damian de Allende made dangerous half breaks, presented a penalty opportunity for Carbery, which he duly dispatched to level the scores.
Two minutes later Ntamack caught a lose box kick and accelerated right through the Munster middle, and a scrambling Conor Murray was forced to concede another penalty under his own posts, and the French outhalf made no mistake, as Toulouse regained the lead.
Munster then scored a wonderful team try against the run of play, in the 24th minute, with their first real attack. They played with real tempo, in a move that was sparked by a neat dummy by Stephen Archer in midfield and multiple phases later de Allende timed his pass perfectly to allow Keith Earls to finish expertly in the left corner.
Just three minutes later Munster were in again. A superb break by de Allende in midfield sliced Toulouse to ribbons, and although the supporting CJ Stander was held up short, Murray was able to loop a huge pass out to the left wing to allow Earls in for an easy second.
From the restart Toulouse won a cheap turnover penalty which Ntamack duly slotted to reduce the arrears to 13-9, although Munster had the last word in the first half, with Carbery slotting a penalty right on the small whistle to ensure Munster led by seven at the break.
Toulouse once again started the half like a house on fire, with some big carries from Zack Holmes and Julien Marchand punching holes, and then Ntamack dinked a beautiful chip to his winger Matthis Lebel to score brilliantly in the left corner. Ntamack then slotted the touchline conversion and Munster’s seven-point lead had been wiped.
With the scores level Gavin Coombes decided it was time for his party piece, with him taking a tap penalty in the 50th minute and barrelling right through the waiting Toulouse pack to touch down on the whitewash for a superb score, and this time Carbery was able to add the extras.
Toulouse weren’t going away though, and they scored a try in the 54th minute with French international hooker Marchand powering over from close range under the Munster posts, and it was level pegging once more.
Munster put huge pressure on Toulouse and were able to force a penalty under the posts, and replacement outhalf JJ Hanrahan tapped it over to give Munster a three-point lead in the 66th minute, but the lead only lasted a minute as Hanrahan was stepped by Lebel out wide and the lightning winger was able to feed the supporting Dupont to score under the posts.
Ntamack missed from a penalty from inside his own half in the 72nd minute and Munster were still within four points, but he made no mistake three minutes later when he slotted a simpler penalty and the gap was out to seven.
There was to be no late heroics from Munster and Dupont scored another try in the 77th minute to make sure, even if Coombes scored at the death for a consolation score.
Carbery (2 pens, 1 con), Hanrahan (1 pen, 1 con), Earls and Coombes (2 tries each).
Ntamack (4 pens, 4 cons), Dupont (2 tries), Lebel and Marchand (1 try each).
Haley; Conway, Farrell, de Allende, Earls; Carbery, Murray; Kilcoyne, Scannell, Archer; Kleyn, Beirne; Coombes, O’Donoghue, Stander (c).
O’Byrne for Scannell (34), Holland for Beirne (36), Scannell for O’Byrne (40), Cronin, Ryan and Hanrahan for Kilcoyne, Archer and Carbery (62), Wycherley for Kleyn (63), Cloete for O’Donoghue (69), Casey for Murray (76), O’Byrne for Scannell (77).
Médard; Kolbe, Holmes, Ahki, Lebel; Ntamack, Dupont; Baille, Marchand (Capt.), Faumuina; Rory Arnold, Richie Arnold; Cros, Tolofua, Kaino.
Castets and Aldegheri for Baille and Faumuina (47), Tekori for Rory Arnold (51), Placines for Tolofua (52), Flament for Kaino (54), Mauvaka for Marchand (57), Delibes for Medard (63), Tolofua for Cros (71), Germain for Dupont (77).
Wayne Barnes (England).