Wednesday 25 April 2018

Hanrahan pounces to add name to Munster folklore

Perpignan 17 Munster 18

Munster's JJ Hanrahan acknowledges supporters after defeating Perpignan
Munster's JJ Hanrahan acknowledges supporters after defeating Perpignan

John Fallon

JJ Hanrahan, the villain of the opening round in Edinburgh, was the hero in Perpignan last night as he crossed in the final play of the night to notch an astonishing win for Munster.

Munster looked set to be heading out of the competition when the conceded a try two minutes from the end.

But another layer of folklore was added to their wonderful Heineken Cup history when Denis Hurley broke, fed wide to Tommy O'Donnell and his pass inside saw Hanrahan take at pace, sidestep full back Joffrey Michel and score in the right for a dramatic winner.

Moments earlier replacement Tommaso Benvenuti looked set to have grabbed the winner despite at least one forward pass in the movement.

Perpignan led 9-3 at the break after Munster's hopes of getting on top early were thwarted when a try from Sean Dougall after four minutes was whistled back after the TMO adjudged that James Downey had blocked Luke Narraway.

Perpignan hit back and Tommy Allan got them off the mark after seven minutes with a good penalty from 45 metres after Downey and Paul O'Connell were pinged in a ruck.

Ian Keatley cancelled that with a fine penalty from 35 metres on the left but the strong running of Fijian centre Watisoni Votu was causing Munster a lot of bother.

A late tackle on Allan by Felix Jones after a break up the middle presented the recently Italian capped out-half with another opportunity and he made no mistake from in front of the posts after 19 minutes. He extended that with one from 25 metres on the left five minutes later as both sides struggled to build any substantial phases of play.

Keatley lost his nerve from the right on the 22 and then missed an even easier penalty just before the break and Munster were lucky not to go in further behind but Allan was also guilty of a miss, albeit from 40 metres.

But the hosts went into the break leading by 9-3 and Munster knew they needed a big start to the second half or their hopes of a quarter-final place were going to suffer a massive blow.

They got back in the game in trademark Munster fashion straight after the restart with a series of massive scrums which eventually yielded a penalty try.

It started with intense pressure on a Perpignan five-metre scrum with pressure on Nicolas Durand forcing a wild pass that conceded the scrum to Munster.

Two more penalties, then a reset and a free-kick followed before Munster's superior scrum forced the referee to run to the posts, with Keatley's conversion putting Munster ahead for the first time in the contest after 53 minutes.

Allan had a chance to restore the home lead three minutes later but he missed again from 40 metres while it took some scrambling defence from Munster to keep their line intact after Sofiane Guitoune had attacked from deep.

Allan landed a 64th-minute penalty to restore their lead but Keatley edged Munster back in front 12 minutes from time with a kick from 30 metres on the left.

That looked like it would be enough but all the drama was wrapped into those astonishing closing minutes as Munster looked to be on their way out of the competition when their line was crossed for the first time. But only Munster know how to perform miracles in this competition.

Hanrahan was only on the field as a dazed Keith Earls had to go off in the move which let to the Perpignan try, but he seized the moment and in the process kept Munster on course for a showdown in Gloucester in January which will decide this pool, rescuing it at the death with the sort of finish which only they can produce regularly in the Heineken Cup.

Scorers -- Perpignan: T Benvenuti try; T Allan 4 pens. Munster: JJ Hanrahan try, penalty try. I Keatley 2 pens, con.

Perpignan: J Michel; R Haughton (T Benvenuti 18), L Mafi (D Marty 69), W Votu, S Guitoune; T Allan, N Durand; S Taofifenua, R Terrain (G Guirado 49), P Ion; S Vahaamahina, G Vilaceca; D Leo (JP Perez 54), A Strokosch, L Narraway (J Purll 69).

Munster: F Jones (D Hurley 71); K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey, J Murphy; I Keatley, C Sheridan; J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 62), D Varley, BJ Botha (S Archer 73); D Ryan (D O'Callaghan 53), P O'Connell; P O'Mahony, S Dougall (T O'Donnell 62), J Coughlan.

Referee: JP Doyle (England)

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport