London Irish upset former champions Munster

London Irish got almost the perfect start to the Heineken Cup ini Pool 3 as they beat former Champions Munster 23-19 at Madejski Stadium on Saturday.


The result was almost spoilt for the Exiles who had the match sewn up but they allowed Munster back in and the visitors scored a late unconverted try which earned them a losing bonus point.

 

Up until the moment the All Blacks centre latched onto Ronan O’Gara’s clever grub kick through the last remnants of the home defence it looked as though the two-times champions would leave the Madejski Stadium with nothing.


But Tuitupou’s score earned his battling side a vital bonus point to keep them firmly in the hunt for a way out of this season’s Pool of Death.


London Irish looked set not only to take all four points but also deny Munster anything after England full back Delon Armitage had landed a 52 metre penalty to stretch his side’s lead to 11 points with eight minutes left to play.


The top ranked team in England at the end of the first month of the season, London Irish were full value for their 15-6 interval lead and had dictated the course of events with their hard-core defence and clever game management from outside half Ryan Lamb.


It was Lamb who really put the boot into Munster in that opening period, kicking four penalties and also dropping a goal to claim all 15 points to help his team take yet another major scalp in the Heineken Cup after beating defending champions Leinster in Dublin in their first game last season.


Then came the coup de gras for the home side when right wing Topsy Ojo stepped in off his wing to intercept a pass from Munster full back Johne Murphy intended for his wing Denis Hurley and he sped 55 metres to score.


That came a mere 34 seconds after the second half had started and stretched the home lead to 14 points. A that stage the battle between the top two sides in the English Premiership and Magners League looked to be over.


But it took another 32 minutes before Irish scored again and all the pressure from there on in belonged to Munster.


They rectified their line-out problems, beefed up their scrum and kept the ball closer to their fired-up forwards. They scrapped for every inch and cut the gap to eight points after 68 minutes following a fourth O’Gara penalty.


Shortly before that strike the Irish defence held out after 15 phases of driving forward play from the visitors had taken them up to the home line.

 

A try seemed certain, but Delon Armitage somehow held up the 19st Tony Buckley and another flying tackle stopped Denis Leamy from going over the line.

 

Armitage added to his reputation four minutes after O’Gara’s final penalty when he stepped up to take a kick of his own from two metres inside his own half.

 

It sailed through the posts and left Munster scrambling to close to within seven points.

 

They just managed to do so thanks to O’Gara’s vision and Tuitupou’s finish and that could be vital when the final places in Pool 3 are determined in January.

 

Seilala Mapusua won man of the match.

Final Score London Irish 23 (15) Munster 12 (6)


Scorers


London Irish
Tries: Ojo
Penalties: Lamb 4, D Armitage
Drop-goals: Lamb


Munster
Tries :Tuitupou
Penalties: O’Gara 4
Conversion


Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)


Teams


London Irish: D Armitage, T Ojo, E Seveali’i, S Mapusua, S Tagicakibau, R Lamb, P Hodgson, C Dermody [capt], J Buckland, F Rautenbach, N Kennedy, B Casey, K Roche, D Danaher, G Stowers.#


Replacements: D Paice, M Lahiff, A Corbisiero, M Garvey, C Hala’Ufia, J Joseph, D Bowden, D Allinson

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