Munster 24 Toulouse 24
(Toulouse win 4-2 on penalties)
MUNSTER bowed out in agonising fashion, as they lost a penalty shootout to Toulouse in their nail-biting Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
That was after a game of high drama from start to finish.
Munster won an early penalty and backed themselves and went for the corner. Jack O’Donoghue carried to within a couple of yards of the try line and a few phases later openside Alex Kendellen muscled over from three metres out to give Munster the early lead in the 10th minute.
However, Toulouse struck back within a minute when full-back Thomas Ramos punched a big hole in the Munster midfield and soon afterwards the Grand Slam-winning out-half Romain Ntamack recovered his own fumble to finish to the right of the posts.
In the 22nd minute, Toulouse backed themselves and tried to maul Munster over but the Munster maul defence repelled the giant French pack. However, the scrum that was awarded to Munster only ended up being a huge problem as Toulouse were simply destroying the Munster front row early on, and they forced a penalty with a monstrous heave.
From the next play Toulouse, with another penalty advantage on the way, put it through the hands and Ntamack, Pita Ahki and Ramos combined to put the speedy Matthis Lebel away in the corner.
Munster needed some oxygen and a brilliant O’Mahony steal at a lineout in the 34th minute gave them that opportunity, only for Joey Carbery’s 40m penalty to hook narrowly wide. And when Munster had a few more attacking opportunities soon after Carbery and de Allende were guilty of kicking away possession.
Ironically it was another kick that created Munster’s next score, as a Chris Farrell kick resulted in Lebel being driven into touch inside the Toulouse 22. From the resultant lineout de Allende trucked it up before an excellent one-handed Josh Wycherley catch kept the move alive.
Murray then fed Farrell, who gave a beautifully disguised pass to Carbery who in turn sent a huge looping pass out to Keith Earls on the right-wing to score. And for good measure Carbery converted from the touchline to leave the score locked at 14-14 at the halftime break.
Munster scored again in the 44th minute. Simon Zebo had gathered brilliantly in the air and then Carbery passed to Chris Farrell, and the outside centre went through a gap in the Toulouse defensive line and delayed his pass beautifully before releasing the supporting full-back Mike Haley who stepped Ntamack to get over and somehow manage to ground the ball.
Toulouse second row Rory Arnold was sin-binned in the 50th minute for a dangerous tackle on Zebo, although it could easily have been red.
Munster capitalised on having a numerical advantage when Carbery slotted a 57th-minute penalty from straight in front of the posts to give Munster a ten-point lead.
Toulouse then scored a try out of nothing in the 67th minute to give themselves a lifeline. They had a lineout around halfway and one simple reverse pass from Peato Mauvaka put Lebel through a big gap at the tail of the lineout and he had too much speed for the splintered Munster rearguard.
The Toulouse scrum pulverised Munster in their own 22, at their own put in, in the 75th minute and Ramos slotted the resultant penalty to tie the game.
Ben Healy had a 56m penalty at the death to win it but the ball just landed left and short and we faced extra time.
Both Healy and Ramos had drop goal opportunities in extra time but both efforts were hooked wide, and Healy had one last gasp effort that went agonisingly to the right, and we faced a penalty kick shootout, where Healy and Murray’s misses swinging it Toulouse’s way in agonising fashion.
Carbery (3 cons, 1 pen), Kendellen, Earls, Haley (1 try).
Ramos (3 cons, 1 pen), Lebel (2 tries), Ntamack (1 try).
Haley; Earls, Farrell, de Allende, Zebo; Carbery, Murray; J Wycherley, Scannell, Archer; Kleyn, F Wycherley; O’Mahony (c), Kendellen, O’Donoghue.
Ryan for Archer (51), Loughman and Barron for J Wycherley and Scannell (54), Jenkins and Casey for Kleyn and Murray (60), Daly for O’Mahony (64), Ahern for F Wycherley (72), Healy for Haley (72), Murray for Zebo (97).
Ramos; Delibes, Fouyssac, Ahki, Lebel; Ntamack, Dupont; Neti, Marchand (c), Aldegheri, Arnold, Meafou, Elstadt, Flament, Cros.
Mauvaka, Baille, Jelonch and Medard for Marchand, Neti, Elstadt and Delibes (46), Ainu’u for Aldegheri (51), Tekori, Tolofua and Germain for Meafou, Flament and Fouyssac (63), Fouyssac for Medard (72).
Luke Pearce (RFU)