Munster secured a third Heineken Champions Cup victory of the season in dramatic late fashion – confirming their round-of-16 place – as Gavin Coombes scored with virtually the final attack of the game after Castres had led via two Ben Botica penalties and a converted Thomas Larregain try
Last Updated: 14/01/22 10:26pm
A Gavin Coombes try in the final stages saw Munster snatch a 16-13 Heineken Champions Cup victory over Castres at theÂ Stade Pierre-Fabre.Â
Munster, who knew victory in France would confirm a round-of-16 place, went into a 3-0 lead courtesy of 22-year-old out-half Jack Crowley – playing with Joey Carbery and Ben Healy unavailable.
Castres responded with a try through full-back Thomas Larregain, and led for the majority thereafter as Ben Botica and Crowley traded four further penalties.
That was until Coombes’ intervention in the closing minutes, as, on penalty advantage, he reached out to score the match-winner.
Munster had earlier blown three penalty kicks to touch, making a mess of the lineout each time. But Coombes’ score made up for those errors, as they made it three wins from three in this year’s competition.
Crowley kicked Munster into an 11th-minute lead with a penalty after Castres scrum-half Santiago Arata had gone off his feet at a breakdown. The pushing and shoving that followed was a brief reminder of previous spicy encounters between the two sides in this competition.
Munster quickly settled into a set-piece plan where they were confident they would have the upper hand. They kept things simple in their own half, kicking for territory cleverly, while Tadhg Beirne and captain Peter O’Mahony ramped up the pressure on the set-piece and breakdown.
But Castres were both scrappy and disciplined, giving little away and troubling Munster more than they would have expected in the tight and the loose.
Full-back Larregain’s 28th-minute try – his first for Castres since joining from ProD2 side Colomiers – was the highlight of a messily enthralling opening half. Botica added the extras.
He was the first on the scene when Botica chipped over Munster’s solid defensive line after the hosts had battered away for several phases following a penalty kicked to touch just outside the visitors’ five-metre line.
Munster fought their way back into the lead in the opening 10 minutes of the second half, courtesy of two Crowley penalties.
But they gave away two kickable chances of their own after 55 and 66 minutes. Botica converted both to make it 13-9.
Castres then tried to shut the game down. They seemed to have played the percentages better than Munster had earlier, until Coombes’ late score which was converted by Crowley.