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London Irish, Munster book semi-final tickets

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Latest update : 2008-04-05

London Irish ended French club Perpignan's European Cup hopes with a 20-9 quarter-final win at home, while Ireland's Munster overwhelmed Gloucester 16-3. The last remaining French club Toulouse play host to the Cardiff Blues on Sunday.

Munster and London Irish qualified for rugby union's European Cup semi-finals with wins on Saturday over Gloucester and Perpignan respectively.

For Munster, the 2006 champions, the 16-3 win guaranteed a seventh last-four place in European rugby's showpiece club tournament, while London Irish will be making their maiden semi-final appearance.

Saracens host Ospreys with Toulouse at home to Cardiff in the two other quarter-finals on Sunday.

Gloucester's Scotland winger Chris Paterson, who enjoys an incredible kicking success rate at international level, missed three straightforward penalty shots within the first 20 minutes of a frantic game.

Munster's Ireland stalwart Ronan O'Gara made no mistake with his first effort as the Irish province did well to ride wave after wave of early Gloucester pressure.

Ian Dowling, preferred on the wing to Brian Carney, scored in the 37th minute after Doug Howlett provided the crucial pass from an offload from man-of-the-match centre Rua Tipoki.

O'Gara missed the tricky conversion but hit a third penalty early in the second-half.

As the game entered the final 20 minutes, Munster scored a second try through All Black winger Howlett, who gathered a clever grubber by full-back Denis Hurley - making his European debut - to cross for a try in the corner.

Ryan Lamb finally got the home side on the scoreboard with a penalty but Munster's forwards, led by the superb Donncha O'Callaghan, ground Gloucester down and their tough-tackling midfield offered no chances.

At Reading's Majedski Stadium, Perpignan took the lead through a penalty kick from South African full-back Percy Montgomery, but London Irish responded with two of their own through Australian Peter Hewat on the way to a 20-9 win.

Montgomery, a cornerstone of the Springbok team that won the World Cup last year, then hit an equalising second penalty before Irish flanker Declan Danaher outjumped the French defence to claim a Mike Catt cross-kick and touch down in the corner.

London Irish lock Nick Kennedy dominated the line-out and the English team were prepared to throw wide mispasses around from early on in the match.

But that high-risk strategy backfired when Montgomery punished a ruck infringement after one spilled wide pass with his third penalty.

Man-of-the-match Hewat, whose out-of-hand kicking was also superb throughout, struck back in the second-half with three further penalties to ensure a maiden semi-final appearance for the English team.

"That was an outstanding performance and was very controlled," said the exiles' coach, Brian Smith.

"We deserve to be in the European Cup semi-finals and we'll know in three weeks time if we deserve to go on from there."

Hewat was quick to praise his pack, which bossed the Perpignan forwards in the second period.

"It was one of those days when things came off," the former Australia 'A' full-back said.

"The pack was awesome which makes things a lot easier at the back. They were a pleasure to play behind."
 

Date created : 2008-04-05

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