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Second half revival sends Munster roaring into the Euro semi-finals

By Aidan Corr
Thomond Park
European Champions Cup quarter-final:
Munster 41, Toulouse 16
EVEN the loss of Conor Murray early this morning failed to affect Munster’s European title aspirations today in Limerick, the reds scoring a second impressive victory in this competition and at this venue in three seasons. Munster now away the result of tomorrow’s meeting of Saracens and Glasgow. If Glasgow win the semi-final will be in Edinburgh. If Saracens are victorious, the Aviva Stadium in Dublin will be the venue in three weeks time.
Munster may have led 13-9 at the break but they looked far off the demolition squad that saw them chalk up a series of wins in recent outings. The Toulouse pack was certainly up for the fray and some close-in possession by the home eight had been competently repelled in that opening 40 minutes. They had the benefit of the lively wind that blew in from Ballynanty and they certainly needed to up their game if they were to assure their semi-final spot. A surge of late tries put paid to the French challenge and it is ‘all eyes’ on tomorrow’s two games now for Munster and Leinster.
Munster started well, forcing a penalty at the breakdown right on halfway a minute after the kick-off and Bleyendaal’s mighty kick graced the crossbar and fell over, 16-9. Rory Scannell’s left boot was kept busy as the home side kept Toulouse on the back foot and the traditional penalty, lineout and maul saw CJ Standrer get over with Bleyendaal this time putting the ball wide of the left hand post. 21-9 on 48 minutes.
Toulouse continued to struggle with Francois Cois twice making taking poor fielding options and full-back Maxime Medard spilling the ball in his side’s only threatening attack of the third quarter. Bleneydaal made the French pay again on 52 minutes to push Munster 24-9 to the good as the tie began to slip away from the visitors. They got in for a try by Paul Perez to reduced the lead to 24-14 and with the conversion important at this stage, Jean-Marc Doussain’s left boot split the posts to make it 24-16 with 24 minutes to play. Toulouse turned down a chance of three points to go for a lineout on the 22 and set up a good phase of pressure that was spoiled by a knock-on 12 metres from the home line making them regret not going for the posts earlier.
With 13 minutes left Toulouse needed the next score but another drop of a simple pass, this time by Doussain, spoiled a decent attack inside the home ten metre.
The result was settled on 73 minutes when Toulouse were penalised going forward from their own 22 and Bleyendaal this time found the target to put is his side 27-16 in front and a schoolboy error by the French close to their own line gifted Darren Sweetman with a try, converted by Bleyendaal as Munster for a 34-16 lead with three minutes remaining.

First half: The tension of the occasion was evident right from the kick-off, Toulouse number eight Francois Cois sent to the bin after a late tackle on Duncan Williams. Bleyendaal opted for the lineout instead of seeking an early three points and the ploy was rewarded with John Ryan crashing over and Bleyendaal’s conversion putting Munster 7-0 in front after four minutes. It was the perfect start for the home side and with Zebo and Sweetman frightening the visitors with their pace, the pressure was unrelenting on the French. Another penalty on nine minutes, Bleyendaal adding to his impressive ratio from the tee, pushed the lead to 10-0.
A rare mis-kick by the home out-half gifted Toulouse territory in the home 22 for the first time. Frantic defence by Munster forced a knock-on and the attack was repelled. The visitors got their first sniff of points after 16 minutes, Rory Scannell whistled for not releasing but Doussain sent his kick wide of the posts at the Mayorstone end. Toulouse began to play a bit of rugby coming up to the end of the first quarter, their reward a successful penalty from Jean-Marc Doussain to reduce the lead to 10-3.
A high tackle gifted Munster another three points with 27 minutes played, Bleyendaal again on target, to restore the home ten point lead, 13-3. The game was still all play for but the French were finding it continually difficult to set up a try chance. Doussain popped over a close-in penalty to bring Toulouse back to a seven point deficit at 13-6 eight minutes to the break. It would have pleased the visitors to go in at the break with that scoreline but again there was a sting in the tail of this European battle. A fluent move by Munster saw Bleyendaal go over but the TMO ruled no try, knock-on. Duncan Williams then blocked down an attempted clearance but Munster came away from this assault with zero result. Toulouse got a rub of the green a few seconds from the break, Rory Scannell’s kick blocked down and Williams penalised for offside. Doussain’s kick was far out but he sent his side back down the tunnel trailing by just four points, 13-9. Andrew Conway’s try on 79 minutes capped another highly-impressive display by Rassie’s side and they will certainly be hard to beat in the semi-final. Bleyendaal capped a good performance, his conversion bringing the final score to 41-16.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams, Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony Capt., Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall for N Scannell, James Cronin for Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Dave O’Callaghan for O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue for Stander, Angus Lloyd, Francis Saili, Andrew Conway for Earls.
Toulouse: 15. Maxime Médard; 14. Yoann Huget, 13. Gaël Fickou, 12. Florian Fritz, 11. Paul Perez; 10. Jean-Marc Doussain, 9. Sébastien Bézy; 1. Cyril Baille, 2. Leonardo Ghiraldini, 3. Census Johnston; 4. Dorian Aldegheri, 5. Yoann Maestri; 6. Thierry Dusautoir (captain), 7. Yacouba Camara, 8. François Cros. Replacements: 16. Julien Marchand, 17. Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18. Yoanne Maestri (Joe Tekori), 19. Tala Gray, 20. Piula Fa’asalele, 21. Joe Tekori, 22. Luke McAlister, 23. Arthur Bonneval.
Referee, JP Doyle, RU.

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