Munster 12-20 Harlequins, Amlin Challenge Cup, April 30
Quins silence Thomond Park
April 30, 2011
Quins prop Joe Marler is hauled to the deck
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Harlequins booked their place in the Amlin Challenge Cup final with a famous 20-12 victory over Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday.
After the disappointment of their exit from the Heineken Cup at the Pool stages, the first time in 13 years that they have failed to make the last eight, Munster have now also had their European home record blotted for only the second time, following Leicester's famous win in Limerick in the 2006-07 season.
Quins will now face Stade Francais at the Cardiff City Stadium on May 20, in search of their third title, and will be confident after a wonderful showing in Ireland. First-half tries from George Robson and Danny Care laid the platform for victory, with Munster responding through Felix Jones and Doug Howlett late on.
Quins played for 20 minutes with 14 men as Nick Easter was first binned and then sent-off and also survived the withdrawal of Nick Evans due to injury, his replacement Rory Clegg kicking six points.
Surrounded by a sea of red and barracked from all sides, Harlequins produced a breakneck start to the game and pounced for the first try after only eight minutes. Dominating possession, they used the width of the field to good effect and winger Gonzalo Camacho produced a razor-sharp incision along his flank to create the score.
The Pumas international skinned Howlett and Keith Earls before the ball was worked infield, where Jordan Turner-Hall and George Lowe combined to send Robson over in the corner. Evans added the extras and while Munster roused their fans by winning a five-metre scrum against the head, Quins almost bagged a second try as Lowe was denied from close range by an excellent intervention from Ronan O'Gara on his line.
Munster went close as Jones attempted to get on the outside and Quins passed up six points as two kickable penalties were sent wide of the sticks by Evans just before the half-hour mark.
The All Black playmaker then picked up a knee injury in a collision with Turner-Hall and spent some time on the deck receiving treatment, but amid fears that he would be forced off he rejoined the line and played a key role in Quins' second try. Mike Brown stood at first-receiver and took the ball to within inches, with Evans continuing his work only to be hacked down short by Jones. Care appeared next to the ruck and dotted the ball on the line, with the TMO confirming the score.
The scrum-half converted but Munster had one trick up their sleeve after the struggling Evans was turned over in midfield. The penalty went to the corner and the hosts used their pack to suck in the defence, with Jones cutting back on the angle to score following a weak attempted tackle by Brown. O'Gara converted to bring the half to a close at 14-7.
Evans was replaced for the start of the second-half by Clegg, while the home side quickly made three changes, introducing Sam Tuitupou in place of Paul Warwick, John Hayes for Tony Buckley and withdrawing Mick O'Driscoll for the fit again Paul O'Connell.
O'Connell made an immediate impact by pinching a Quins lineout, but the hosts failed to push on further before both sides were reduced to 14 men. Easter and Donncha O'Callaghan saw yellow for a off-the-ball altercation moments before Clegg slotted his first penalty after a lineout infringement.
Quins kept their foot down and two raking kicks, one from Ugo Monye and another from Clegg, put Munster under pressure. Again the hosts could not safeguard their lineout and the Londoners capitalised with three more points from Clegg. Within moments of one another each side then had a 'try' chalked off, Harlequins losing out as Lowe looked for a penalty try in a chase against Howlett for a kick ahead and the Munster winger then falling foul of the referee after diving over in the corner off a forward pass.
The All Black winger saw another try chalked off before Harlequins' resolve was tested further by O'Connell, who went within inches before Easter dived in at the side, earning his marching orders. Munster attempted to turn the screw after going to the corner but a succession of errors among the backs ended with an O'Gara grubber being dotted down by Brown.
Howlett finally got his try at the death, but when O'Gara's conversion sailed wide, Munster's fate was sealed.
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