Heineken Cup Pool 6: Munster strike late for rare win in Perpignan
Last Updated: 16/12/13 5:13pm
JJ Hanrahan's late try gave Pool 6 leaders Munster a 18-17 victory at Perpignan after a frantic finish at Stade Aime Giral.
Munster led 13-12 entering the final three minutes but looked to have blown their chance for a rare win at the Catalan venue when Perpignan's replacement wing Tommaso Benvenuti went over in the left corner.
But there was still time for Munster to get the ball back and Hanrahan to sidestep his way to the line on the final play of the match.
The Irish province, just the second visiting team to win a Heineken Cup match at the ground in 24 attempts, now top Pool 6 by six points from Gloucester, who play Edinburgh on Sunday.
Perpignan picked up a losing bonus point for their efforts and sit in third place, seven points behind Munster.
Perpignan fly-half Tommy Allan kicked three of his four penalties during the first to give the French side a 9-3 advantage at half-time.
But Munster put them under pressure at the scrum after the break and were eventually awarded a penalty try in the 49th minute by English referee JP Doyle after a series of re-sets.
Ian Keatley added the conversion for to give Munster the lead for the first time before exchanging penalties with Allan prior to the late excitement.
Munster began brightly and thought they had claimed the opening try with just six minutes on the clock when openside flanker Sean Dougal scampered over from 10 metres out.
The celebrations were shortlived, however, as Doyle called for assistance and the TMO ruled that James Downey was guilty of obstruction.
Instead, it was Perpignan who scored first just moments later through a well-struck penalty from former Scotland Under 20 international Allan.
Both sides found themselves down to 14 men after 13 minutes when Munster skipper Peter O'Mahony and Perpignan hooker Romain Terrain were sin-binned for an off-the-ball altercation that led to a mass brawl.
Keatley kicked Munster level after a quarter of an hour but Allen edged Perpignan back in front with his second three minutes later.
His third strike after 24 minutes pushed Perpigan six points clear and it stayed that until the break, although both kickers should have added to their tally.
Keatley failed from the tee after half an hour and Allan followed suit four minutes later, with Keatley missing again with the final play off the half.
Munster started the second-half in a similar manner to the first with their pack repeatedly demolishing the Perpignan scrum.
Doyle awarded three penalties and a free kick at a five-metre setpiece before finally losing patience and pointing to the posts for a penalty try. Keatley's conversion handed Munster the lead for the first time on 50 minutes.
Perpignan responded well and should have gone back in front before the hour. Allan was off target again before they turned down another kickable penalty in favour of a quick tap and the chance went begging when former England No 8 Luke Narraway failed to hang on to a dreadful pass out wide.
Perpignan did regain the advantage when Allan struck his fourth penalty from wide on the left after 63 minutes but the lead was shortlived as Keatley made it 13-12 with 13 minutes left.
Benvenuti's try out wide should have been enough for Perpignan but 2006 and 2008 champions Munster have proved time and time again that they can never be written off in Europe.
With the clock already in the red, Munster kept the ball alive from the restart, with Denis Hurley and Tommy O'Donnell setting up Hanrahan's heroics.
Hanrahan produced a stunning run from 25 metres out and touched down out wide to hand Munster a third win in four pool games.
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