Heineken Cup final 2006
Munster power to Heineken Cup glory
Scrum.com
May 20, 2006
Munster scrum-half Peter Stringer hoists the Heineken Cup aloft after his try secured a famous victory for his side, Munster v Biarritz, Heineken Cup final, Millennium Stadium, May 20 2006.
Munster's try-scoring scrum-half Peter Stringer lifts the Heineken Cup © Getty Images
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Biarritz 19 - 23 Munster

Munster were crowned 2006 Heineken Cup champions this afternoon after edging Biarritz in a titanic struggle at the Millennium Stadium. Trevor Halstead and Peter Stringer crossed for the Irish province who erased painful memories of their two finals defeats in 2000 and 2002 with a worthy victory.

Anthony Foley´s side weathered a second-half fightback from Biarritz with the boot of scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili whittling away at their lead. But with half-backs Stringer and Ronan O´Gara, who kicked 13 points, operating to good effect behind a typically rousing forward display, Munster were able to hold out for their first European title.

Stringer pounced nine minutes before half-time to give Munster a priceless lead at the interval. Sereli Bobo and Trevor Halstead exchanged tries while the kicking of Dimitri Yachvili and Ronan O´Gara had also kept the teams on level pegging - until Stringer saw his chance.

The Ireland scrum-half spotted a gap in Biarritz´s defence and raced around the blindside of a scrum to cross unopposed for a magnificent solo try. Biarritz had made a blistering start with centre Philippe Bidabe running through a weak tackle from John Kelly and feeding Sereli Bobo who crossed in the left corner with just over two minutes on the clock.

Replays showed Bidabe went desperately close to putting a foot into touch but referee Chris White awarded the try immediately and Dimitri Yachvili converted.

Biarritz appeared to be in for their second shortly after when a loose kick from O´Gara found Bobo whose deft pass gave Bidabe a clear run to the line, but the Irish province had already been awarded a penalty and O´Gara obliged with the three points.

Munster won a 12th-minute penalty within O´Gara´s range but Foley pointed for touch and they used the ensuing line-out to build a promising field position. They pounded away at the opposition line and won another penalty which O´Gara used to keep the pressure on, but they could not break through Biarritz´s defence.

Not to be denied, Munster launched fresh waves of attacks, using their runners to make ground close to the ruck before striking at the perfect moment. Quick hands from Peter Stringer and O´Gara released Trevor Halstead who broke two tackles and crashed over for his side´s first try in the knockout stages. O´Gara converted.

Biarritz´s response was swift with Yachvili punishing a collapsed scrum with three points, levelling the score at 10-10. O´Gara wasted another attacking opportunity by trying to turn the Biarritz defence with a grubber through which was easily gathered by Nicolas Brusque.

Munster looked shaky as they were subjected to a worrying five minutes, the French club making ground in midfield through Damien Traille and Bidabe. Once again Munster went for touch on the half-hour mark when O´Gara could have taken the points and the decision appeared to be paying off when they drove 20 metres at the line-out.

And it was fully justified when Munster won a scrum 10 metres out which Stringer used to jink around the blindside and crossed unopposed. It was a poor piece of defending from Biarritz - opposite number Yachvili had begun turning before the ball had left the scrum, blindside flanker Serge Betsen was too slow to snuff out the danger and winger Bobo was nowhere to be seen.

The rare lapse in concentration from a side known for its watertight defence allowed Munster to regain the lead which O´Gara´s conversion stretched to 17-10. O´Gara kept the scoreboard ticking over moments after the restart with a routine penalty which stretched Munster´s lead to 20-10.

Biarritz went on the offensive initiated by a surging run from Betsen but they eventually ran out of space down the left and Munster won a line-out which they used to clear the danger. But they were penalised for going to ground in the 49th minute and Yachvili made no mistake, adding a second a moment later when Denis Leamy made a high tackle on Imanol Harinordoquy.

Munster had looked in a strong position but Biarritz´s fightback was taking shape as they began to attack with more urgency and precision. But fly-half Julien Peyrelongue, who moments earlier had made a telling break, kicked out the ball on the full to give Munster some breathing space.

Twice they squandered good positions just outside Biarritz´s 22 by giving possession away when they needed to make their progress tell on the scoreboard. Munster fans were subjected to a harrowing last 10 minutes as Yachvili landed his fourth penalty to leave his side trailing by a single point.

O´Gara bisected the posts to ease the pressure again but there was still time for the French champions to find the winning score. However, Lievremont´s men were unable to muster the try they needed and Munster´s huge travelling contingent roared their approval when White blew the final whistle.

Biarritz: 19 Try: Bobo Con: Yachvili Pen: Yachvili (4)

Munster: 23 Try: Halstead, Stringer Con: O´Gara (2) Pen: O´Gara (3)

Attendance: 74,534

Munster: S Payne; A Horgan, J Kelly, T Halstead, I Dowling; R O´Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O´Callaghan, P O´Connell; D Leamy, D Wallace, A Foley (c)

Replacements: D Fogarty, F Pucciariello, M O´Driscoll, A Quinlan, T O´Leary, J Manning, R Henderson

Biarritz: N Brusque; J-B Gobelet, P Bidabe, D Traille, S Bobo; J Peyrelongue, D Yachvili; P Balan, B August, C Johnson, J Thion, D Couzinet, S Betsen, I Harinordoquy, T Lievremont (c)

Replacements: B Noirot, B Lecouls, O Olibeau, T Dusautoir, M Carizza, J Dupuy, F Martin Arramburu.

Referee: Chris White (Rugby Football Union)

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