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Munster do it hard way as Toulon loom


Keith Earls is tackled by Max Evans and Johnnie Beattie in Musgrave Park last night. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Keith Earls is tackled by Max Evans and Johnnie Beattie in Musgrave Park last night. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Keith Earls is tackled by Max Evans and Johnnie Beattie in Musgrave Park last night. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Not exactly what Munster were looking for a week out from their survival course in the Heineken Cup in Toulon, and yet it wasn't without reward.

Indeed a handsome reward in terms of the competition they were playing in last night at a cold Musgrave Park. They now lead the Magners League by a whopping nine points from Scarlets. And for the umpteenth time in their history Ronan O'Gara's signature was on the bottom line. He kicked six from six against a Glasgow side who outscored the home team by two tries to one.

In the first half they were also hammering their hosts on the penalty count -- or rather James Jones was, and his 10-2 tally contributed significantly to Glasgow's lead of 10-3 at the break. He changed tack dramatically in the second half.

It remains to be seen what the cost of the win was however in terms of next Sunday's mission. Tony Buckley withdrew last week with a virus and given that it required hospitalisation the odds are long on him being fit for France. The sight then of John Hayes going off early in the second half doesn't help their situation.

The Toulon game is being built up to epic levels and the scrum contest there will be central to Munster's chances. They had dreadful trouble last night however with James Jones on the engagement sequence. If next week Munster have as much grief getting into the scrum -- never mind who's there, or what happens when they're there -- it promises to be hard going.

"I suppose it's cup final rugby and it's something we're reared on," man of the match Donncha O'Callaghan said afterwards. "It's a massive week with huge focus now on everything from recovery and let's see if we can bring it on. It's a huge challenge and it's our season in a week. It was great out there tonight -- a lot of good things. I know it wasn't the prettiest of games but they're very important for us in terms of our tactics it's exactly what we're going to face."

Chances are they will be facing an altogether more powerful challenge than the one posed by Glasgow. But the Scots were good, especially the speed and accuracy of their defensive line which constantly made life difficult for Munster. Their defence close in was top quality as well, and in both halves they denied Munster tries from long periods of pressure.

The one try Glasgow actually conceded was a touchdown neither the referee nor his TMO actually saw. Which makes you wonder why it was awarded at all. And as the teams were trooping off Glasgow full back Bernardo Stortoni was still pleading his innocence over a deliberate block down which saw him spend the last few minutes in the bin.

That penalty allowed O'Gara regain the lead for his side, a lead they had built in the third quarter with a run of 12 points from the outhalf's boot. When they got to that point they seemed to have the hard work done only for DTH ven der Merwe to close the gap to 19-17 in Munster's favour when rounding off a good move. And within a few minutes of that Glasgow went ahead with a lovely drop goal from Ruaridh Jackson.

At that point they were back in the driving seat only to crash at the hands of the referee. It had been all Glasgow before the break, starting with Jackson getting them ahead on six minutes which O'Gara cancelled four minutes later.

Just before the break they went ahead again with a good support try made by Max Evans, breaking the combined tackle of O'Gara and James Coughlan, and then holding off Paul Warwick long enough to find Colin Gregor running the perfect line. Given that they had survived a binning for Richie Gray they had done very well.

Munster had a binning of their own when Keith Earls was bizarrely done for not coming through the gate when cleaning out at a ruck. All in all it wasn't a great night for Jones. Not really a great one for Munster either.

Scorers -- Munster: D Wallace try; R O'Gara 5 pens, con. Glasgow: DTH van der Merwe try; C Gregor try, con; R Jackson pen, con, dg.

Munster: P Warwick; D Hurley, K Earls, L Mafi, J Murphy; R O'Gara, P Stringer (T O'Leary 62); D Hurley, D Varley, J Hayes (P Borlase 44), D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, J Coughlan (D Ryan 62), D Wallace (N Ronan 67), D Leamy

Glasgow Warriors: B Stortoni; A Dunbar (D McCall 56), M Evans, P Murchie (P Horne 51), DTH van der Merwe; R Jackson, C Gregor; R Grant (J Welsh 52), D Hall (P MacArthur 59), M Low (K Tkachuk 67), R Gray, A Kellock, R Harley, J Barclay, J Beattie (R Wilson 69)

Referee: J Jones (Wales)

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