Magners League
Munster set seal on celtic triumph
May 17, 2009
Munster's David Wallace charges upfield, Munster v Saracens, Heineken Cup semi-final, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, England, April 27, 2008
Munster's David Wallace grabbed two tries as the Magners League champions celebrated their title success in style © Getty Images

Lions captain Paul O'Connell brought the curtain down on his club season by lifting the Magners League trophy for Munster at Thomond Park on Friday night.

Already assured of the title before kick-off, Munster secured a 36-10 victory over Ospreys, their third over the Welsh side this season, thanks to tries from two tries from David Wallace and further scores from Paul Warwick, Denis Leamy and Anthony Horgan.

The result also saw Federico Pucciariello, John O'Sullivan, Mike Prendergast, Kieran Lewis, Frankie Sheahan and Horgan end their Munster careers on a triumphant note, the latter two after 12 years with their home province. In what was Sean Holley's last game in charge of the Ospreys, James Hook kept himself in the running for a late Lions call-up with a 10-point haul.

Munster struck for the opening try when Niall Ronan ripped the ball free from his opposite number Marty Holah, setting off a fluid attack which ended with Warwick handing off debutant David Evans and racing 40 metres in behind the posts.

Six minutes before half-time, Filo Tiatia linked with Richard Hibbard and as the hooker was tackled, the ball squirted out perfectly for the advancing Hook to gather, hand off O'Gara and dive over under the posts. Hook's conversion levelled it but Munster gathered serious momentum off the re-start and after a good hit at a close range scrum from Tony Buckley, No.8 Wallace pounced off the base to muscle his way over the whitewash.

Wallace's unconverted effort had Munster 15-10 ahead at the break and the newly-crowned champions upped the gears in the third quarter. They scored two tries in the space of three minutes through Leamy, who spun out of two tackles to dot down from metres out, and Wallace, who profited from some excellent interplay which included a midfield break from Peter Stringer and a powerful run from Denis Fogarty.

Munster later lost Wallace to the sin-bin for hands in the ruck but fittingly, amid a raft of replacements, Horgan, in only his fourth competitive appearance of the season, took a great line off a Kieran Lewis pass to gallop through for his last try in red.

Edinburgh secured second place with a 36-14 victory over Cardiff Blues which wrecked the home side's farewell party at the Arms Park on Sunday.

The final game of the season was given extra relevance as the region's last before moving to share the new Cardiff City Stadium a mile away, while the Blues were also waving goodbye to Jamie and Nicky Robinson, off to Gloucester and Toulon respectively, and it was appropriate that the brothers combined to give them the lead.

Centre Jamie snatched a loose Edinburgh pass on the Scottish 22 and sent Nicky under the posts to give Ben Blair an easy conversion. Edinburgh hit back with a Chris Paterson penalty, but the Blues responded with a beautifully crafted try.

Winger Chris Czekaj, back in the Wales squad two years after an horrific injury in Australia, ran a superb angle to take Nicky Robinson's short pass, brush off a weak tackle and cross the line. But in the second period everything changed, helped by Jamie Robinson's instinctive act to stick out a hand to knock the ball down as he retreated from an offside position.

Irish referee Simon McDowell awarded a penalty try and sin-binned the offender, leaving the Blues short of cover as Edinburgh centre Ben Cairns sped in for a second try to put them ahead. The home side were still a man short when the Scots produced a fine flowing move to see the other centre, Nick de Luca, claim a third try in nine incredible minutes.

Even when the sinner returned, Edinburgh had not finished. Another thrilling passage of play was ended by fly-half Phil Godman touching down, while De Luca intercepted a careless pass to grab their fifth try.

Elsewhere, Glasgow stuttered to a 30-9 victory against the Magners League basement boys Connacht at rain-lashed Firhill. But their sloppy performance just summed up their roller-coaster campaign as they had to rely on a late Hefin O'Hare double to make sure of the bonus award.

Glasgow held the upper hand during the jittery opening sparring session but they were unable to turn their superiority into a significant points advantage. Colin Gregor edged them in front with a penalty from close range, only for Ian Keatley to reply in identical fashion from 45 metres at the other end.

Warriors surged ahead again with their first fluent attack with a fine try by Colin Shaw. Connacht's problems began when fullback Troy Nathan was yellow carded for deliberately palming a Graeme Morrison chip into touch. From the set piece, Glasgow swung the ball across the field to Lome Fa'atau, whose grubber kick was perfectly weighted for Shaw to pounce.

The hosts continued to look the more potent outfit but their good work was spoiled by giving away a spate of penalties in their own half. And Keatley punished them again by landing another penalty from a similar distance.

Warriors carved out plenty of chances before the break, but a combination of sloppy handling and stout Connacht defence gave the Irishmen the lead as Keatley completed his treble with the final strike of the half. Glasgow prop Moray Low was lucky to stay in the fray just after the restart when he felled winger Fionn Carr with a hefty early challenge.

And there was a further let-off as Keatley's penalty drifted past the far post. Warriors' good fortune continued when Gregor defied the elements to thump over a difficult kick at the other end. But the scrum-half winced in frustration three minutes later when he squandered a much easier chance.

The contest was lit up midway through he half thanks to a moment of magic by O'Hare. O'Hare marked the extension of his Glasgow contract by swerving past at least four defenders before squeezing over for a remarkable touchdown. Low atoned for his earlier blunder by ploughing through for the third try, goaled by Gregor. He added another when O'Hare again left the Connacht markers for dead to put a flattering complexion on the Glasgow tally.

On Saturday, Newport Gwent Dragons defeated an under-strength Leinster side 18-9 at Rodney Parade, the Irish province's discipline letting them down as they rested players ahead of their appearance in next weekend's Heineken Cup final.

The Dragons, whose bid for automatic qualification to Europe's biggest tournament ended when the Scarlets beat Cardiff Blues in midweek, denied an Irish region without three of their four British Lions a bonus point in a poor match. Leinster had the most to gain even though they were not going to catch newly-crowned league champions Munster.

Victory would secure them second place in the final table but there was also the small matter of a run-out for some squad players ahead of next weekend's European final against Leicester. And it also marked the return of British Lions-selected wing Rob Kearney, who had been out for five weeks with the mumps.

For the Dragons, who signed former Wasps prop Ali McKenzie last week, it was about finishing off the regular season and getting ready for a Heineken Cup qualifying play-off in Italy on May 29.

Openside Sean O'Brien was the first to head to the bin after just over a quarter of an hour for taking a Dragons player out at a ruck, but it was the sinbinning of centre Fergus McFadden that cost Leinster most. McFadden was yeallow carded for pulling back Jason Tovey as he looked certain to score, the referee awarding a penalty try before sending the Leinster player to the stands. The Dragons soon had another try from fullback Martyn Thomas, and it was clear that Leinster had their eyes elsewhere.

The Scarlets leap-frogged Ulster to move up to fifth place in the Magners League following a convincing 43-17 bonus-point victory at Parc y Scarlets.

Having already qualified for next season's Heineken Cup with their midweek win over Cardiff Blues, a relaxed home side, playing their final match of the season without Lions duo Stephen Jones and Matthew Rees, scored six tries.

A bright start by the Scarlets was rewarded with three first-half tries from fullback Dan Evans, Dominic Day and Lee Williams. A disappointing half for the Northern Irishmen improved somewhat when scrum-half Paul Marshall jinked his way over from a ruck 10 metres out for a converted try, which reduced the deficit to 12 points.

The Scarlets scored a try within the first two minutes of the re-start when a break by prop Iestyn Thomas was finished off by Darren Daniel to give his side the bonus point. The Ulster cause was not helped when they lost number eight Robbie Diack to the sin-bin after 58 minutes for a professional foul.

And, with the extra man, the Scarlets celebrated a fifth try scored by scrum-half Roberts after some good work by Daniel and Nick Reynolds. In injury-time, the Scarlets put the icing on the cake with a try for captain David Lyons, who scrambled over the line from close range. Just before the end, Ulster centre Darren Cave went in for Ulster's second try but it was too little, too late.


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