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Munster survive late Castres scare in Champions Cup

By PA
PA

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Jack O’Donoghue’s first Heineken Champions Cup try proved crucial as Munster struggled past Castres Olympique 19-13 scoreline at Thomond Park.

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Ben Healy, who deputised at fly-half for the injured Joey Carbery, kicked three penalties to give Munster a 9-3 lead at the end of a forgettable first half.

Damien De Allende had a try ruled out and Castres got off the mark late on through the boot of Benjamin Urdapilleta.

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With their recent Covid-19 disruptions causing a general rustiness, Munster’s performance was very flat compared to last week’s youthful exuberance against Wasps.

O’Donoghue’s 57th-minute effort, coupled with Healy’s fourth penalty, was enough to seal the result, but Castres bagged a deserved bonus point thanks to Kevin Kornath’s late try.

The early stages were eaten up by a series of scrums before Healy hoofed a 47-metre penalty through the posts in the seventh minute.

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Loic Jacquet forced a turnover penalty but his Castres side had a subsequent decision overturned as number eight Kornath was pinged for ripping off John Hodnett’s scrum cap at a maul.

There were some niggly exchanges – these teams have plenty of history together with this being their 17th Champions Cup clash – and a mistimed Munster lineout allowed Castres to clear.

Lifting the pace, Andrew Conway used a cross-field kick to chip through and Tadhg Beirne managed to win a penalty in the Castres 22, which Healy sent over for 6-0.

De Allende was involved twice in a swarming Munster attack, which deserved a try. However, TMO Ian Tempest said that the Springbok had lost control of the ball in the act of scoring, with Santiago Arata Perrone’s knee making contact with it.

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Healy and Urdapilleta traded penalties to maintain the six-point gap, the game still waiting to catch fire in front of a subdued home crowd.

Into the second half, Castres’ Thomas Larregain pulled a long-range penalty wide and Bastien Guillemin was fingertips away from turning a Keith Earls pass into an intercept try.

Healy was then wide with a penalty effort from halfway, before O’Donoghue showed great strength to reach over in the right corner.

The TMO’s decision went Munster’s way after the number eight managed to just about ground the ball with two defenders hanging off him.

Healy’s excellent conversion was cancelled out by another Urdapilleta penalty, yet Castres were left frustrated when back-chat from replacement Rory Kockott twice moved Munster penalties forward.

A fourth penalty from Healy followed, only for Castres to have the better of the final 10 minutes despite playing with 14 men due to replacement Antoine Zeghdar’s injury.

Kornath impressively spun out of a couple of tackles to make the line in the 76th minute, with Urdapilleta’s simple conversion securing the bonus point for the visitors.

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