Champions Wasps knocked out
2006 winners make knockout stages for 10th successive year
Last Updated: 20/01/08 3:08pm
Last-minute replacement: Wasps winger David Doherty
Defending champions Wasps have been knocked out the Heineken Cup at the competion's group stage, the Guinness Premiership side being beaten 19-3 by 2006 champions Munster at Thomond Park.
The Magners League outfit thus emerge from Pool Five - the obligatory 'Pool of Death' - and continue their fine record of progression in European rugby's premier competition - Munster now having reached the knockout stages for the 10 successive years.
On an atrocious evening in Limerick, the efforts of Lawrence Dallaglio's men were ultimately in vain as, with Clermont Auvergne scoring a bonus-point win against Llanelli Scarlets, the London side could not even place themselves in the frame for a best runners-up spot.
Given the huge sense of anticipation surrounding the encounter, it was perhaps typical that it failed to live up to the hype; driving rain and high emotion led to handling errors and indiscipline aplenty and, as such, the line-out became of paramount importance.
And, in this department, it was Munster who dominated. But it was captain Ronan O'Gara who controlled the game, the fly-half edging the home side ever further in front before setting up a second-half try for Denis Leamy.
With Wasps having to replace Paul Sackey with David Doherty at the last minute, their pack kept it tight in the opening moments of the match and, after eight phases of play, the home side's illegal attempt to take the ball resulted in a penalty - Danny Cipriani converting confidently.
In contrast, O'Gara appeared to be playing below his best early on in terms of his placement kicks; nevertheless, after Wasps were penalised for being offside 10 minutes in, the skipper found the target to level proceedings.
Doherty certainly showed his pace when fed by Fraser Waters four minutes later - the youngster breaking down the blindside. However, he could not run on to his subsequent chip - O'Gara's head start meaning he instead was able to clean up.
With Cipriani narrowly missing a 45-metre penalty effort, referee Nigel Owens then called captains O'Gara and Dallaglio to calm their sides down as tempers began to fray.
Passions were still high, however, with David Wallace choosing to ignore the referee's prolonged whistle-blowing as he sprinted through to touch down, and Leamy then sin-binned for preventing the ball from being released.
Wasps could do nothing with their extra man, however, and with the mistakes continuing to come thick and fast, it was Simon Shaw's turn to receive a yellow card for not retreating 10 yards at a penalty moments before Leamy returned.
O'Gara rubbed it in by finding the target with the subsequent penalty and, when Dominic Waldouck failed to deal with Peter Stringer's chip and two more penalties were subsequently conceded by Wasps close to their own line, the number 10 increased Munster's lead to six points at the break.
The visitors were back to their full complement when they regained Shaw - albeit, shortly to be replaced by Tom Palmer after suffering an injury to his left ankle - at the start of the second half, but they were still losing at the line-out.
And Wasps were soon one man down once again - the man in question this time being Dallaglio. O'Gara converted the simplest of opportunities and, with Munster now nine points clear, their opponents very definitely needed something special.
Heading out of the competition save the all-important try, Wasps pressed forward, but Munster's defence remained resolute before, as the rain's intensity increased yet further, it was the home side's turn to exert pressure.
Over 20 phases of Munster possession followed before patience gained its reward: Stringer passing to O'Gara, whose dummy set up Leamy running through on an angled run to touch down, the captain then converting to seal victory.