Super Rugby - Munster vs Gloucester 2003 - The Miracle Match

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Категория ролика: Super Rugby

Munster 33 Gloucester 6, 18th Jan, 2003

This was expected to be one of the finest Heineken Cup encounters. That it was not. Instead, Munster's unbelievable victory was one of the greatest performances by any team outside the international arena.

First the statistics. The Irishmen needed to beat Gloucester by four tries and 27 points to qualify for the quarter-finals at the visitors' expense as one of the best runners-up. So Munster beat Gloucester by four tries and 27 points, with the crucial fourth try in the final minute by Ireland wing John Kelly, his second of the match.

Thomond exploded with joy. Ronan O'Gara, the Ireland outside-half, immense throughout, had to kick the conversion to secure the 27-point margin. Thomond Park goes deftly silent whoever is kicking, but this silence was deeper, stronger than ever before. Up stepped O'Gara, the ruddy-faced boy from Cork, and the conversion from the right of the posts sailed over and a province went mad, with Munster through to the quarter-finals for the fifth successive year. Never has The Fields of Athenry been sung with such fervour. Men and women of Munster hugged, weeped and cheered and landlords across Europe planned their early retirement parties, knowing Munster and their supporters would be marching on to fill bars across a continent.

Gloucester, magnificent all season as Zurich Premiership leaders, will be as sick as it is possible to be. Yes, they were poor at the line-out. Yes, Henry Paul was a liability at full-back, but Gloucester were simply blown out of the Heineken Cup by a force of rugby nature.

Phil Vickery, the Gloucester captain, as a former Redruth man, knows all about Hell Fire Corner, but Thomond Park is where Hades holds its dinner parties. By comparison, Gloucester's Kingsholm is the garden of Eden.

The mathematics were finally cracked, but it would surely be a technicality. The Irishmen may be one of the most driven teams in all sport at their Limerick home, but to stuff Gloucester, a team fashioned in Munster's image, was not thought possible. Yet the mantra all week in the home camp had been: 'With Munster everything is possible.' Only Thomond Park can do this.

They know how to rouse a crowd here, as if they need any cajoling. Before the match Limerick legend Peter Clohessy was presented with a trophy, what for nobody knows, but that was not the point. The fire was being stoked. Then Anthony Foley, the magnificent Munster No 8, ran out ahead of the team in recognition of his 50th appearance in the competition.

The most predictable tactic was when O'Gara launched a mighty Garryowen and Paul was heard to mutter, "Please God, take me back to Bradford".

After Foley was stopped just short, Munster were awarded a series of penalties and a Gloucester forward should have been shown the yellow card by French referee Joel Jutge. Munster, desperate for tries, opted for scrums and eventually Peter Stringer, the little scrum-half, nipped down the blind side and Kelly did brilliantly to touch down in the corner as the crowd went quietly berserk.

Munster continued to hammer the Gloucester line, before Gloucester flanker Peter Buxton was sent to the sin bin for pulling down the maul. Then deep in first-half injury time a neat chip by Jason Holland was grounded, just, by left wing Mossie Lawlor. Thormond's Park exploded again and Munster went into half-time 16-6 ahead and two tries to the good.

There was more of the same from the monumental Munster pack with young lock Donncha O'Callaghan growing into legend Mike Galwey's boots by the minute, but Munster could not further exploit their one-man advantage. It was enthralling, nerve-destroying stuff, with Gloucester happy to concede penalties in the face of the relentless onslaught.

Another O'Gara bomb landed on Paul with the wind of 12,000 voices behind it and again he failed to gather. O'Gara kicked his second penalty, conscious that points difference was important too.

I have never seen such passion and resolve in a rugby team, driving into Gloucester bodies like men possessed. Then came an inspired piece of play by Holland. The centre saw lock Mike O'Driscoll in acres of space and his kick soared high to the corner. O'Driscoll, by this time 8ft 6in six, beat the Gloucester backs to the jump and touched down Munster's third try for a 26-6 lead.

Munster were one step from heaven.

Heaven waited until the dying seconds. Munster threw everything at the Gloucester line before working Kelly over for his second try followed by O'Gara's ice-cool conversion. The rest is hysteria.

...From The Telegraph
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