European Champions Cup: Munster seal dramatic victory over Toulon

Last Updated March 31 2018, 17:18Rugby Union
Andrew Conway and his Munster team-mates celebrate
Andrew Conway and his Munster team-mates celebrate

Andrew Conway took on the mantle of matchwinner for Munster as his stunning 74th-minute try saw them pip Toulon 20-19 in a titanic European Champions Cup quarter-final at Thomond Park.

Winger Conway's decisive score from a kick return, which saw him beat four defenders from near halfway, sent the Irish province through to a record 13th European semi-final and a trip to France to face either Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92.

Replacement Francois Trinh-Duc almost inspired a famous Limerick victory for Toulon, kicking two penalties and having a key involvement in Chris Ashton's converted try as the three-time champions began the final quarter with 13 points in little over seven minutes.

However, Munster - who led 10-6 at half-time thanks to an opportunist Conor Murray try near the half hour mark - used all of their cup nous to pull off a gritty comeback triumph thanks to Conway's dazzling effort and Ian Keatley's all-important conversion.

Toulon's threat was obvious right from the first minute, fortune favouring Munster as Simon Zebo did just enough to prevent Ashton from scoring off Eric Escande's dangerous kick. Not for the first time, the hosts rode their luck in avoiding a possible penalty try.

Peter O'Mahony's lineout steal, coupled with Conway's vital tackle on Josua Tuisova on the opposite wing, kept the visitors scoreless until Anthony Belleau, a late inclusion at fly-half for Trinh-Duc, fired over a well-struck 10th-minute penalty.

After Munster turned down a long-range kick, CJ Stander was squeezed out in the left corner and the covering Ashton beat Conway to a Simon Zebo kick through.

Raphael Lakafia's hoovering up of Billy Holland's lineout steal allowed the beefy Toulon pack to get within range for Belleau to score an 18th-minute drop goal for a 6-0 lead.

Andrew Conway crosses for Munster
Andrew Conway crosses for Munster

The injury-enforced withdrawal of Zebo robbed Munster of one of their key attackers but a couple of frenzied kick chases, allied to a strong carry from Jack O'Donoghue, led to Murray's momentum-changing 27th-minute score. Toulon thought they had covered the danger, only for France captain Guilhem Guirado to knock on at a ruck close to his own line and Murray pounced to ground the ball.

A prolonged deliberation between referee Nigel Owens and TMO Jonathan Mason went Munster's way, and Keatley converted and then tagged on a 31st-minute penalty, punishing Semi Radradra for tackling replacement Darren Sweetnam without the ball.

Murray was short and wide with a penalty attempt just inside the Toulon half, before the French powerhouses got no reward again from a Dave Attwood break and a threatening late attack that saw Sam Arnold bump Ma'a Nonu into touch.

Defences were on top in the early stages of the second period, Munster getting on the front foot with O'Mahony continuing to cause problems for the Toulon lineout. The excellent Arnold hauled down Tuisova as he threatened from deep, while the consistently well-positioned Ashton covered Sweetnam's chip-and-chase effort.

Munster's front row reserves came up trumps in winning a scrum penalty which Keatley turned into three points, but Toulon's own bench proved hugely influential entering the final quarter.

Radradra just lost control of the ball as he stretched for the line, under pressure from Alex Wootton, before Trinh-Duc punished Jean Kleyn's side entry at a maul to cut the gap to 13-9.

It got even better for the travelling support when Trinh-Duc's offload near halfway was adjudged to be flat, releasing Mathieu Bastareaud who charged through and put the supporting Ashton diving in under the posts. Suddenly, Toulon had a grip on proceedings as Trinh-Duc's pinpoint 48-metre penalty, won by Tuisova, gave them a 19-13 advantage.

It was all hands to the pump for Johann van Graan's injury-hit side, replacement Niall Scannell being held up by Bastareaud before Munster's decision to go wide was foiled by the Toulon rearguard.

Conway came to Munster's rescue, brilliantly keeping a Trinh-Duc clearance in play and, with Tuisova having run infield, the Ireland international expertly slalomed his way through the cover to cross close to the posts. Keatley added the extras and Munster's defence did the rest, frustrating Toulon into submission.

Related rugby union links

Most Read

The latest from the back pages1

Wednesday's Paper Talk

The latest transfer talk and rumours from the back pages including a potential world record bid by Liverpool for a goalkeeper.

Check out our free horse racing selections and preview for today's action2

Wednesday's racing preview

Anita Chambers makes Hart Stopper her best bet on Wednesday and she has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland.

Sporting Life Open Championship tips: Ben Coley is backing experience at Carnoustie3

The Open: Outright betting preview

Golf expert Ben Coley tipped the winner of last year's Open Championship and includes two rank outsiders among his selections for Carnoustie.

Find out who our team are backing ahead of today's racing4

Sporting Life: Daily Nap

Dave Ord previews Wednesday's action with the Sporting Life Daily Nap running at Wolverhampton's evening card.

Bernhard Langer in action at Carnoustie5

The Open: Specials betting preview

Ben Coley has selections at 250/1 and 350/1 in his look at the specials markets ahead of The Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Most Read

The latest from the back pages1

Wednesday's Paper Talk

The latest transfer talk and rumours from the back pages including a potential world record bid by Liverpool for a goalkeeper.

Check out our free horse racing selections and preview for today's action2

Wednesday's racing preview

Anita Chambers makes Hart Stopper her best bet on Wednesday and she has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland.

Sporting Life Open Championship tips: Ben Coley is backing experience at Carnoustie3

The Open: Outright betting preview

Golf expert Ben Coley tipped the winner of last year's Open Championship and includes two rank outsiders among his selections for Carnoustie.

Find out who our team are backing ahead of today's racing4

Sporting Life: Daily Nap

Dave Ord previews Wednesday's action with the Sporting Life Daily Nap running at Wolverhampton's evening card.

Bernhard Langer in action at Carnoustie5

The Open: Specials betting preview

Ben Coley has selections at 250/1 and 350/1 in his look at the specials markets ahead of The Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Racing Tips

Find out who our team are backing ahead of today's racing

Sporting Life: Daily Nap

Dave Ord previews Wednesday's action with the Sporting Life Daily Nap running at Wolverhampton's evening card.

Check out our free horse racing selections and preview for today's action

Wednesday's racing preview

Anita Chambers makes Hart Stopper her best bet on Wednesday and she has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland.

Check out our free horse racing selections and preview for today's action

Thursday's racing preview

Anita Chambers takes Vera Drake to strike at Hamilton and has a tip for every race in the UK and Ireland.

Next Race Off
11:30 Scottsville
8
(15)
Francisco
J: S Veale
5
(11)
Donnan
J: Craig Zackey
4
(2)
Blackbeard
J: M J Byleveld

Football Tips

Neymar in action for Brazil against Serbia

Sporting Life: Tipping record

A look at how the Sporting Life recommended bets have performed in July 2018.

Get your bets on!

Our best bets

Check out all of our available betting tips and previews of the forthcoming sporting action.

We have two best bets for the World Cup final

World Cup final betting tips

There's a David v Goliath battle in the World Cup final but will France prove just one game too far for Croatia? Paul Higham has two best bets.