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Saturday, 27 April, 2002, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
O'Gara leads Munster to victory
Castres Scottish wing Shaun Longstaff is tackled by Munster's Rob Henderson
Shaun Longstaff is tackled by Rob Henderson
Castres 17-25 Munster
  Photo Gallery: See this story in pictures

Ronan O'Gara struck six sweetly-hit penalties as Munster reached their second Heineken Cup final in three seasons.

It was a brave and magnificent effort by Munster in Beziers' Stade de la Mediterranee.

Everything appeared to be against Munster before the game, but their 8,000 travelling supporters witnessed a totally committed performance.

O'Gara contributed 20 points with his trusty right boot and just for good measure John Kelly took advantage of a Castres slip in injury time to score a bonus try.

Influential

Munster initially did wonders to keep Castres at bay by containing their early blitz and commitment.

Big hits sunk into the Frenchmen with Anthony Foley, in particular, making his presence felt.

Unfortunately the influential Irish number eight damaged his right shoulder and had to be replaced after only 16 minutes.

The game, which began to boil up underneath, finally came to the surface midway through the half.

Peter Clohessy and Castres' South African prop Brent Moyle were subsequently sin-binned after a fairly innocuous clash in the 20th minute.

Gregor Townsend evades Munster's David Wallace
Gregor Townsend evades Munster's David Wallace

From the resulting penalty Castres full-back Romain Teulet finally got the scoreboard ticking with a dipping 35m penalty.

O'Gara had a chance to equalise a few minutes later but saw his 40m effort drift wide.

After more head-to-head confrontations up front, with little action in the three-quarters, it was left to the boot of Tuelet with two penalties in as many minutes to open up a gap.

Undaunted, Munster piled back and should have grabbed the first try of the game two minutes from the break.

A series of rucks saw them move to within five metres of the Castres line, and when a long ball was moved left, full-back Dominic Crotty spilled the ball.

However, from a resulting penalty under the posts O'Gara put Munster's first points on the board.

First-half injury time was full of incident, with Teulet's dropped goal shaving the wrong side of the upright.

Then an Alan Quinlan intercept and chase upfield resulted in O'Gara banging over his second penalty to bring Munster to within three points.

  Scoring details:
Castres:
Tries: Longstaff.
Pens: Teulet (4).
Munster:
Tries: Kelly.
Cons: O'Gara.
Pens: O'Gara (6).

Within a minute, O'Gara had brought the sides level with his third penalty after Castres had dived in at a ruck despite turning over Munster ball.

Munster never budged an inch, despite being on the back foot for most of the third quarter.

The Irish province forged ahead for the first time in the 53rd minute when O'Gara popped over penalty number four.

A brilliant bout of possession play by Munster ended with Shaun Longstaff just beating Kelly to the touchdown after a neat kick through by Rob Henderson.

Munster had their tails up and on the hour it was O'Gara again who stretched their lead when he rifled over a 45m penalty.

O'Gara, though, missed another shot from wide out that would have put two scores between the teams.

Castres Romain Froment is nailed by Rob Henderson

That proved even more important when Teulet knocked over his fourth attempt with 11 minutes remaining to make the score 15-12 in favour of the Irishmen.

But O'Gara made up for his earlier miss when he banged over a magnificent effort from the halfway line after Gregor Townsend high-tackled Donnacha O'Callaghan.

Then, out of nothing, came the big bonus when Henderson threaded through a kick and when Castres failed to clear, Kelly picked up to touchdown with O'Gara converting.

Longstaff scored a consolation try for Castres two minutes later, but Munster had done enough to win to confound the pundits and critics alike.


Teams:

Castres: R Teulet; U Mola; E Artiguste, N Berryman, S Longstaff; G Townsend, capt, A Albouy; M Reggiardo, R Ibanez, B Moyle, I Ferdandez-Lobbe, N Spanghero, R Froment, I Lassissi, A Costes.
Replacements: R Vignaux for Ibanez (40), D Dima for Reggiardo (70), S Chinarro, T Bourdet, O Sarramea, G Delmotte, F Plisson.

Munster: D Crotty; J Kelly; R Henderson, J Holland, A Horgan; R O'Gara, P Stringer; P Clohessy, F Sheahan, J Hayes, M Galwey, capt, P O'Connell, A Quinlan, D Wallace, A Foley.
Replacements: M Horan for Clohessy (70), J Fogarty, M O'Driscoll, D O'Callaghan for Foley (16), M Prendergast, M Mullins for Henderson (82, J Staunton for Crotty (82).

Referee: C White (RFU).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Alistair Hignell
"Not pretty, but a typical red-blooded semi-final"
Munster coach Declan Kidney
"The players were resilient in the face of adversity"
Munster captain Mick Galway
"Against all the odds we came here and won"
See also:

26 Apr 02 |  European
Clohessy to play for Munster
22 Apr 02 |  European
Williams misses Castres clash
18 Apr 02 |  Celtic
Munster appoint Gaffney
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