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banner Friday, 26 October, 2001, 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK
Munster snuff out Bridgend
Chris Stephens
Chris Stephens' fine efforts for Bridgend were in vain
Bridgend 12-16 Munster

Bridgend were again left wondering what might have been as they were pipped at the Brewery Field by Munster in the Heineken Cup.

Munster made it three wins out of three, moving four points clear in Pool Four, while winless Bridgend are realistically now out of contention.

Tries by Mike Mullins and John Kelly proved the difference as Bridgend were unable to convert their own scoring opportunities, having to rely on the boot of fly-half Craig Warlow.

Warlow returned to the Bridgend side for his first game of the season and the fly-half put the pressure immediately on the visitors, his fine hanging kick-off earning a scrum in front of the Munster posts.

Bridgend wasted that opportunity by giving away a penalty but continued to keep the Irish on the back foot.

Munster's Mike Mullins (l) and Bridgend's Josh Taumalolo
Munster's Mike Mullins spins away from Josh Taumalolo

The Ravens' eagerness was often their undoing, however, as Italian referee Antonio Lombardi awarded a string of penalties as Bridgend were caught offside again and again.

Munster's Lions fly-half Ronan O'Gara took full advantage to strike a penalty and put the visitors into an early lead.

Warlow was unlucky with a long penalty from the wrong side of the posts for his right boot, but then Munster scorched upfield for the game's opening try.

The ball was swung through the Irish backs right and then left, with players coming from deep in support.

No 8 Anthony Foley popped up in the midfield to provide the killer pass for centre Mullins, who slid in at the corner ahead of the depairing Bridgend cover.

O'Gara missed the conversion but things were looking ominous for the home side after just 10 minutes.

Bridgend skipper Huw Harries led the fightback with a storming run into the Munster 22.

Josh Taumalolo was at his scrum-half's shoulder to take the pass but support was lacking behind the big Tongan.

Munster gave Warlow the opportunity to get the home side on the score board with a penalty, but it probably should have been more.

Ronan O'Gara
O'Gara had an erratic night with the boot

Some last-ditch tackling stopped a succession of Munster assaults on the Bridgend line but O'Gara simply took the aerial route with a cross-field punt that wing Kelly caught cleanly for an unconverted try.

Bridgend's backs showed hints of danger but promising moves floundered as they ran out of players to pass to.

Munster in contrast were showing how to keep the ball alive and only the efforts of openside Jamie Ringer and lock Chris Stephens, as lively around the field as any back row, kept Bridgend in it.

As half-time approached Bridgend at last began to stretch Munster and keep possession. A handling error eventually spoiled things but Warlow was able to reduce the deficit to 6-13 with his second penalty before the whistle blew.

The second half started scrappily with handling errors creeping in from both sides, denying the game any shape or continuity.

When the game settled down it was Bridgend who took the upper hand and Warlow was able to claw back another three points with his third penalty.

In an effort to regain some control up front, Munster coach Declan Kidney sent on Paul O'Connell at lock for Mick O'Driscoll, while soon after veteran prop Peter Clohessy rumbled off to make way for Marcus Horan.

Craig Warlow
Craig Warlow's return failed to inspire Bridgend

With 15 minutes remaining O'Gara split the Bridgend defence to send Kelly through a gap, only for the No 14's scoring pass to Anthony Horgan, over from the other wing, to be ruled forward.

Bridgend had another let-off soon after when O'Gara screwed a kick wide from in front of the posts.

Home coach Dennis John sent on fresh legs in the back row with 10 minutes remaining, Shawn van Rensburg and Maama Molitika replacing Richard Bryan and Deiniol Jones, with Nathan Budgett moving from blindside to take Jones' place at lock.

Warlow failed with a kick that would have pulled Bridgend back to within a point, before O'Gara proved how crucial that miss was with a long penalty to take Munster into a 16-9 lead with five minutes remaining.

Warlow atoned for his earlier miss by kicking his fourth penalty, but Bridgend needed to breach the Munster try line if they were going to keep alive any realistic hopes of advancing from Pool Four.

Wing Daniel Jones had the Bridgend supporters out of their seats when he raced down the left wing in the final minute, but Jeremy Staunton's tackle and David Wallace's scavenging snuffed out the danger for Munster.


Bridgend: Pens: Warlow 4.

Munster: Tries: Kelly, Mullins. Pens: O'Gara 2.

Att: 4,500


Teams

Bridgend: Josh Taumalolo; Gareth Thomas, John Devereux, John Funnell, Daniel Jones; Craig Warlow, Huw Harries (capt); Christian Loader, Gareth Williams, Jon Thiel, Deiniol Jones, Chris Stephens, Nathan Budgett, Jamie Ringer, Richard Bryan.
Reps: Jason Hewlett, Adrian Durston, Shawn van Rensburg, Chris Ferris, Paul Clapham, Maama Molitika, Colin Noon.

Munster: Jeremy Staunton; John Kelly, Mike Mullins, Jason Holland (Midleton), Anthony Horgan (Cork Con.); Ronan O'Gara (Cork Con.), Peter Stringer (Shannon); Peter Clohessy (Young Munster), Frank Sheahan (Cork Con.), John Hayes (Shannon), Mick Galwey (Shannon, capt), Mick O'Driscoll (Cork Con.), Jim Williams (Cork Con.), David Wallace (Garryowen), Anthony Foley (Shannon).
Reps: Marcus Horan (Shannon), James Blaney (Shannon), Paul O'Connell (Young Munster), Alan Quinlan (Shannon), Mike Prendergast (Young Munster), Colm McMahon (Shannon), Killian Keane (Garryowen).

Referee: Antonio Lombardi (Italy).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Robert Jones
"Bridgend threw everything at the Munster defence"
Munster try scorer John Kelly
"We have a bit of a love affair with this competition"
Bridgend skipper Huw Harries
"We played our guts out"
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