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Rugby | Champions Cup

Simon Zebo © Gallo Images

Munster seal home quarterfinal

Munster secured a home quarterfinal slot following a dominant 48-3 triumph over Castres in the delayed Pool 4 game.

Referee Ben Whitehouse put the game back three hours from its 1:00pm kick-off due to heavy rain at Thomond Park and it initially seemed to affect the hosts.

They were slow out of the blocks and Rory Kockott kicked the French outfit in front, but the Irish province gradually got into their stride.

Ian Keatley scored two penalties before Keith Earls touched down just shy of the interval to extend their buffer to 13-3 at the interval.

Christophe Urios’ men duly began to struggle and the home side effectively sealed their passage into the last eight when Rhys Marshall crossed the whitewash.

The Limerick-based outfit then went in search of the bonus-point and they secured it via a penalty try and efforts from Simon Zebo, Alex Wootton and James Cronin.

It was ultimately another impressive performance by Johann van Graan’s side but they failed to get a foothold in the contest in the opening exchanges.

In difficult conditions, the visitors held onto the ball impressively and threatened when Robert Ebersohn broke through the midfield. Although that move yielded little reward, Castres were eventually rewarded as Munster infringed and Kockott kicked them in front.

Despite struggling in the first quarter, the hosts gradually gained their composure and levelled matters through Keatley before the fly-half added a second soon after.

The Irishmen were now pressing for that elusive try and, after Thomas Combezou had been sin-binned for a cynical infringement, Earls touched down from close range.

Keatley added the extras for a 13-3 buffer at the break before Munster came out firing in the second period. They put Castres under severe pressure and the visitors finally succumbed as Marshall benefited from his fellow forwards’ good work to cross the whitewash following a driving maul.

Urios’ charges duly folded, particularly once Daniel Kotze yellow carded. With the tighthead prop off the field, the home side took the scrum and charged towards the line, earning a penalty try in the process.

Zebo then added to the visitors’ pain by scampering clear for the bonus-point before Wootton continued his fine season by taking the hosts 41-3 clear. The Irish province were finishing with a flourish and Cronin completed the rout by touching down.

With the bonus-point victory taking them to 21 points in their group, Munster qualify as third seeds and will take on Toulon in two months’ time.


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