Munster rue missed opportunity as Castres score Champions Cup win

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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ckinsella@limerickleader.ie

Munster rue missed opportunity as Castres score Champions Cup win

Munster scrum-half Conor Murray makes a break in their Champions Cup pool clash with Castres Olympique at Stade Pierre Fabre on Saturday night

MUNSTER suffered a frustrating 13-12 defeat to Castres in the second of their back-to-back Champions Cup pool fixtures with the French champions at the Stade Pierre Fabre on Saturday night.

Johann van Graan’s side were left to rue what might have been as the visitors failed to make the most of the scoring opportunities which came their way in an arm wrestle of a contest.

The losing bonus point table toppers Munster managed to secure since the province three points clear of second-placed Castres with an away fixture against Gloucester and a home fixture with Exeter still to come in January.

Munster led 6-3 at the end of a keenly-contested, niggly opening quarter, thanks to two penalty goals from the boot of out-half Joey Carbery.

However, the complexion of the game changed soon after when Castres scored the opening try of the game after Mathieu Babillot was judged to have touched the nose of the ball down underneath a pile of bodies. Urdapilleta added the conversion for a 10-6 lead for the Top 14 champions.

Munster failed to take advantage of a gilt-edged opportunity to add to their points tally just before half-time when Castres scrum-half Rory Knckott was sin-binned for deliberately knocking the ball out of Conor Murray’s hand at a ruck deep inside the home side’s ‘22.

However, Munster opted for a quick tap and go from the penalty award and Castres succeeded in forcing a turnover before clearing their lines.

Carbery was off target with a 46th minute penalty attempt as Munster looked to take advantage of their numerical advantage following the sin-binning.

The out-half did kick a 51st minute penalty to reduce Castres lead to one point, 9-10, after the home side was penalised for pulling down a Munster maul.

However, Castres regained the initiative when Munster hooker Niall Scannell was sin-binned for infringing at a maul and Urdapilleta’s penalty made it 13-9 to the Top 14 side after 58 minutes.

Despite being down to 14-men, Munster managed to score next when Carbery kicked his fourth penalty goal of the game in the 66th minute for 13-12.

However, Carbery was off target with a difficult penalty soon after as Castres had a player in the sin-bin.

SCORERS: Castres Olympique: Mathieu Babillot try, Benjamin Urdapilleta two pens, con. Munster: Joey Carbery four pens.

CASTRES OLTMPIQUE: Scott Spedding, Martin Laveau, Thomas Combezou, Florian Vialelle, Taylor Paris; Benjamin Urdapilleta, Rory Kockott; Paea Fa'anunu, Kevin Firmin, Marc Clerc; Thibault Lassalle, Loic Jacquet; Yannick Caballero, Mathieu Babillot (c), Maama Vaipulu. Replacements: Marc-Antoine Rallier,  Antoine Tichit,  Wilfrid Hounkpatin,  Christophe Samson, Kevin Gimeno, Robert Ebersohn, Armand Batlle, Ludovic Radosavljevic.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Tadhg Beirne, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (Capt), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander. Replacements: Kevin O'Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Jaco Taute.

REFEREE: Wayne Barnes (England)