Heineken Cup Pool 6: Perpignan 17-18 Munster

Damien Varley and Sebastien Vahaamahina
Damien Varley and Sebastien Vahaamahina

Munster secured a dramatic last-gasp win over Perpignan to consolidate their position at the top of Heineken Cup Pool 6 and end the French side's hopes.

Tommy Allan kicked three penalties to one from fellow fly-half Ian Keatley to give the hosts a 9-3 half-time lead.

A penalty try, converted by Keatley, saw the Irish side nudge ahead before Allan and Keatley traded penalties.

A 78th-minute Tommaso Benvenuti try looked to be decisive, but JJ Hanrahan touched down in the last minute.

The victory sees Munster move six points clear at the top of the group, with three wins from four games, ahead of Sunday's clash between Gloucester and Edinburgh.

Munster began strongly and Sean Dougall crossed the hosts' line in the fourth minute, but the try was disallowed when the Television Match Official harshly ruled the flanker had infringed at the ruck.

Allan kicked his first penalty in the sixth minute as Perpignan looked to make amends for their 36-8 trouncing at the hands of the Irish province at Thomond Park last weekend.

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony and Perpignan hooker Romain Terrain were yellow-carded after an altercation in the 13th minute at Stade Aime Giral, and soon after Keatley landed a penalty to level the scores.

Two further penalties from Allan saw Perpignan rewarded for their territorial dominance, but the fly-half was off target with another attempt at the posts on 34 minutes.

Keatley had missed with a kick on the half-hour, and skewed a fairly straightforward effort wide of the posts a minute before the break.

Munster enjoyed total control of the scrum and were awarded a penalty try in the 49th minute following several infringements close to the Perpignan line. Fly-half Keatley added the conversion to nudge his side one point ahead.

Allan responded with his fourth penalty on 64 minutes, but Keatley steered his kick between the uprights four minutes later to swing the match in Munster's favour again.

Allan then missed with a very kickable attempt but Benvenuti ran in to touch down with two minutes remaining, the hosts producing a fine flowing move among their backs to send the replacement racing down the line to score in the corner.

The conversion was missed by Allan, and Perpignan paid a heavy price when Hanrahan accepted an offload from Tommy O'Donnell, side-stepped the last defender and raced in at the corner for the two-time European champions' second try.

Keatley's missed conversion failed to dampen the celebrations of the Munstermen, who remain on course to extend their record of reaching the quarter-finals in 14 of the past 15 years.

Team line-ups

Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls; Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Cathal Sheridan; James Cronin, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Donnacha Ryan, Paul O'Connell; Peter O'Mahony (capt), Sean Dougall, James Coughlan.

Replacements: Dave Kilcoyne for Cronin (61), Stephen Archer for Botha (72), Donncha O'Callaghan for Ryan (52), Tommy O'Donnell for Dougal (61), JJ Hanrahan for Earls (78), Denis Hurley for Jones (71).

Not used: Duncan Casey, Duncan Williams

Perpignan: Joffrey Michel; Richard Haughton, Lifeimi Mafi, Watisoni Votu, Sofiane Guitoune; Tommy Allan, Nicholas Durand; Sebastien Taofifenua, Romain Terrain, Paulica Ion; Sebastien Vahaamahina, Guillaume Vilaceca; Dan Leo, Alasdair Strokosch, Luke Narraway (capt).

Replacements: Guilhem Guirado for Terrain (49), Justin Purll for Narraway (67), David Marty for Mafi (67), Tommaso Benvenuti for Haughton (19), Jean-Pierre Perez for Leo (53).

Not used: Pascal Cotet, Jean Baptiste Custoja, Tom Ecochard.

Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)

Attendance: 11,500

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