Biarritz 18-7 Munster, Heineken Cup Semi-Final, May 2
Match-winner Yachvili hails team effort
May 2, 2010
Biarritz coach Jean-Michel Gonzalez congratulates his match-winner Dimitri Yachvili © Getty Images
Biarritz scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili was full of praise for his side's overall performance after kicking his side into this season's Heineken Cup Final.
The French international kicked all of his side's points as they out-muscled Irish rivals Munster 18-7 in San Sebastien to book a final date with Toulouse at the Stade de France in Paris on May 22.
"We are very happy, very proud to have beaten this great team," Yachvili told Sky Sports following the game. "The first half was Munster's but the second half belonged to us. We tried to move the ball around too much and they were waiting for our mistakes to score.
"But in the second half we were physically better than them and we had a really good defence. We were really aggressive and I think we deserved to win. We showed that this team has a very big heart. We love playing together and we showed it on the pitch. We didn't play our best rugby but we showed great character."
Looking ahead to the Paris finale against Toulouse, Yachvili conceded that Biarritz will have to turn in an 80-minute performance if they are to claim their first Heineken Cup. "It's going to be really hard because Toulouse is a great team. But we are very proud, we will have a good rest and we will see what happens in three weeks," he said.
Biarritz fullback Iain Balshaw was almost lost for words after playing his part in his side's memorable triumph. "Words can't describe this at the moment; it hasn't sunk in," said the Englishman. "We said before the game if we made a lot of errors it could cost us and we tried to play a little too much rugby in the first half. They capitalised on that and racked up a try. We just kept coughing up the ball and Munster live off that. They got their try off a turnover.
"So we had a talk at half-time and we said, 'there's no need to force the play. Let's just get the ball into their territory and force them to make some mistakes.' And we did that. I also thought we defended heroically and the lads up front were tremendous. We were very nervous in the first half but in the second half it was about keeping the ball and slowly but surely working our way up the field and then capitalise on their errors. I think we rattled them in the second half and it showed."
While conceding that nothing has yet been won, Balshaw admitted that just reaching the final felt like a massive achievement for a side which failed to qualify for the Top 14 end-of-season play-offs. "It means absolutely everything to us. I can't describe it," he said. "This isn't just for Biarritz - it's for the whole Basque region. We're playing for the Basque country and for the guys from the are it's a huge event to get to Paris for an all-French party. But we're all absolutely delighted and we're going to have a hell of a party for the next few days."
As for the losers, Munster captain Ronan O'Gara was left bitterly disappointed by the way in which his side faded in the second period. "I don't think we can have any excuses. At half-time we found very comfortable but they just hung in there and seemed to change the momentum. Our second half was probably abysmal," he said.
"The conditions were very sapping and we felt very lethargic but I don't know if that was just how some of us felt on the day or due to the conditions. We did feel like we were playing in slow-motion at times but we left one or two opportunities out there in the first half and that counts at this level. We were very much in control but our level of performance in the second half just wasn't good enough. There's nothing you can say: It's gone for another year. It's the Heineken Cup, it's tough."
Munster coach Tony McGahan vowed his side would be back but admitted defeat was hard to take. "It's very difficult to put the feeling into words after losing two semi-finals in consecutive years," said head coach McGahan. "We really feel that they're two wasted opportunities to get into the final. We've been written off all season but reached the semi-finals. To fall away while not too far from the final is very disappointing but this is a very strong group.
"We'll respond to this in the right way and make sure we're in contention next year. You have to get everything right on the day in big games. The last two years we haven't delivered at the semi-final stage.
"Biarritz played very cleverly in the second half. Their set-piece was excellent and they kicked to the corners very well," he added. "They put us under a tremendous amount of pressure and shut up shop. We tried to defend our way back into their half which didn't give us any platform whatsoever.
"Our set-piece was a concern all afternoon. They dominated that area of the game and we had no platform to play off at all. We needed to recognise that we were the ones in front and the ones who needed to get the field position. I thought we defended pretty well and didn't give away many line breaks. We needed to continue with that platform. We prepared well without the players who were missing and were good enough to win."
Biarritz coach Jean-Michel Gonzalez agreed his side's superiority at the set-piece was decisive. "This morning we asked the team to play with generosity and heart. Everything wasn't perfect but we were very satisfied with the result," he said. "We were worried in the first couple of scrums when they surprised us but we were soon able to rectify that and our scrum got stronger as the game went on. One of Munster's strengths is to play off the scrum and we neutralised them in that area."