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Try of the decade the deciding factor in Champions Cup classic

European Champions Cup quarter-final:
Munster 20, Toulon 19
THIS cracker of a game in Thomond Park is what European Rugby is all about. It was tense, fiercely fought and despite lengthy and irritating delays for TMO decdisions, a battle of the giants. In the end it was one piece of absolute genious from Andrew Conway that decided the game.
Right from the kick-off Toulon showed they meant business. They nearly scored after 47 seconds, Ashton foiled by Zebo. Munster lived dangerously for the next eight minutes, soaking up continuous pressure and Toulon got their first shot at the posts with nine minutes gone, Anthony Belleau splitting the posts at the Mayorstone end for a 3-0 lead. Munster attacked from the re-start with Klein, Zebo, O’Donoghue and O’Mahony gaining yards and forcing a penalty. The home side went for the lineout maul but Stander was bundled into touch a metre out. Rory Scannell attacked from the restart and in a training ground move, Zebo threaded the ball into the path of Conway but the TMO ruled in favour of a 22 drop out.
Toulon looked comfortable despite some heroic defending by the home side and they increased their lead to 6-0 on 19 minutes, the pack doing the hard work and out-half Anthony Belleau used his left boot to drop a neat goal after feinting to strike it right-footed. Munster were still under the cosh midway through the half, not much was going their way and they were finding the big French pack a handful. They lost Simon Zebo with an injury with Darren Sweetnam coming in. They were living off scraps and when Murray cheekily nicked the ball at the back of a Toulon maul on the Toulon line and touched down, the incident sparked one of the longest TMO inspections for some time at this venue. The outcome was a Munster try, converted by Keatley and the home side led 7-6 with 29 minutes played.
Steadnam then had a chance when the ball broke to him on the right wing but referee Owens again called for the TMO. Verdict, obstruction, penalty Munster. Keatley went for the post 32 metres out and the home side had raced into a 10-6 lead within three minutes. Superb defence was called for as Toulon came in search of a third score but they were whistled for ‘off your feet’ a metre inside halfway, Conor Murray missing the target by a country mile. The penalty count continued to mount against the visitors as Munster went in at the break boosted by those three scores. Half time, Munster 10, Toulon 6.
A major share of Munster’s season depended on a big second half performance. Keatley tried a drop goal from distance but Munster enjoyed the next five minutes of pressure close to the French 22. O’Mahony continue to frustrate the French lineout, Wooton was whistled back for yet another TMO scrutiny and when the Toulon backline got possession, the Munster defence was not found wanting.
With the wind in their favour, Munster returned to their traditional pattern of play. Toulon could not get out of their half and the pressure at scrum time told when they conceded a penalty on 54 minutes. from 27 metres out Keatley obliged and Munster led 13-6 with 25 minutes remaining. Stung into action Toulon had their best spell of the half, left wing Radrada got over but failed to ground the ball. Munster rang the changes in the front-row bvut they conceded a close-in penalty on 60 mnutes and Trinh-Duk reduced the lead to 13-9 as we entered the final quarter.
On 64 minutes more drama Basteraud made a classic breakm offloaded to Chris Ashton and the England wing was celebrating as he went in under the posts. Trinh-Duk converted and Toulon were in the lead 13-16 with 15 minutes to go. Worse was to follow for the Irish province, Conway whistled after fielding a clearance and Trinh-Duk using a very short run up to the ball but finding the distance. 13-19 and Munster had a lot to do. Murray again turned the tide for Munster, cleverly out-foxing the Toulon scrum-half at a scrum. Munster drove from the maul the lineout but they were held up. Another scrum five and all the hours of scrum training came into play.
Then we were treated to a piece of rugby magic. Toulon gained possession inside their 22, trink-duk kicked deep but Andrew Conway somehow managed to keep the ball in play. He took off on a dazzling run to touch down near the posts and Keatley’s conversion put Munster ahead 20-19 on 76 minutes. Toulon fought to the finish and it was a tense last four minutes or the home fans but this was classic Thomond Park, classic Munster rugby and a match to savour.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, 8. CJ Stander. Replacements, Niall Scannell for Marshall, James Cronin for Kilcoyne, John Ryan for Archer, Gerbrandt Grobler, Robin Copeland for O’Donoghue, James Hart for Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Darren Sweetnam for Zebo.
RC Toulon: Chris Ashton; Josua Tuisova, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma’a Nonu, Semi Radradra; Francois Trinh-Duc, Eric Escande; Florian Fresia, Guilhem Guirado, Marcel Van Der Merwe; Juandre Kruger, Dave Attwood; Raphael Lakafia, Facundo Isa, Duane Vermeulen. Replacements, Anthony Etrillard, Xavier Chiocci, Emerick Setiano, Romain Taofifenua, Anthony Belleau, Malakai Fekitoa, Alby Mathewson, Samu Manoa.
Referee, Nigel Owens, WAL.

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