Harlequins send Munster crashing out of Challenge Cup
Munster 12-20 Harlequins
Harlequins, who obviously hadn’t read the script beforehand, spoiled Munster’s day with an eight point victory in the Amlin Challenge Cup semi-final at Thomond Park.
Munster, who had previously lost only one European game at the Limerick venue, were far below par and despite a late rally which yielded a try for Dougie Howlett, were comfortably beaten by the Aviva Premiership side.
Harlequins started the game like men possessed and were deservedly 14 points in front just after the half hour mark with tries from George Robson and Danny Care, both of which were converted. Felix Jones crossed for a try just before the break and after Ronan O’Gara converted, Tony McGahan brought on big guns Paul O’Connell, John Hayes and Sam Tuitupou at half time.
The changes failed to have the desired effect, however, and ‘Quins substitute out half Rory Clegg kept the scoreboard ticking over with two penalties to open up a sizeable advantage.
Munster being Munster, they threw everything but the kitchen sink at their opponents in search of salvation and got their reward when Dougie Howlett, who had previously had two tries correctly disallowed because of forward passes in the build up, touched down with less than three minutes on the clock.
With the gap at eight points, O’Gara needed to nail the kick for Munster to have any hope, but uncharacteristically, he sent it wide of the posts and the game ended with a whimper.
Take nothing away from Harlequins, however, they were fully deserving of victory and their place in the decider with Stade Francais in Cardiff next month.