Munster through as Conway magic breaks Toulon hearts
Limerick (Ireland) (AFP)
Andrew Conway's dazzling individual try five minutes from time took Munster into the European Champions Cup semi-finals on Saturday with a thrilling 20-19 victory over three-time champions Toulon.
The 26-year-old Ireland wing showed little sign of the injury that had threatened to rule him out as he brilliantly caught Francois Trinh Duc's kick to touch, just inside the Toulon half, and went on a mazy run, beating defender after defender to touch down.
Ian Keatley converted to send the Irish province into their 13th semi-final from 18 quarter-finals contested.
"The 23 fellas put in a savage shift," said Munster skipper and man-of-the-match Peter O'Mahony.
"Conway's try was world class and due reward because we stuck at it. This type of day means a lot to us as many of us grew up around here."
Toulon's Chris Ashton -- who scored their only try -- said they would rue the defeat.
"I think we will look back and think how did we lose this," said the former England wing.
Munster join Scarlets in the last four after the Welsh region reached the semi-finals for the first time in 11 years with victory over La Rochelle on Friday.
Munster will play the winners of Sunday's all-French clash between Clermont and Racing 92 while Scarlets face either Leinster or two-time defending champions Saracens.
Anthony Belleau, a late replacement in the starting line-up for Trinh-Duc, slotted over a penalty in the 10th minute to give Toulon an early deserved lead.
Belleau added another three points with a drop goal as the game neared the end of the first quarter.
There was an emotional end to former Ireland back Simon Zebo's home career at Munster as the Racing 92-bound star limped off -- he had been hurt preventing Ashton scoring an early try -- weeping in the 25th minute.
Munster scrum-half Conor Murray was then awarded a try after a nifty bit of opportunism, stealing the ball from the back of a ruck on the line.
Keatley added the extras to give Munster a 7-6 lead against the run of play.
Keatley converted a penalty a couple of minutes later to make it 10-6 as Toulon coach Fabien Galthie started to look ruffled.
Galthie decided to throw on Trinh-Duc with half an hour remaining.
However, the challenge facing Trinh-Duc increased as Keatley landed a penalty after the Munster front row had caused all sorts of problems for their opposite numbers.
Trinh Duc reduced the deficit on the hour mark with a penalty to set up a nerve-wracking last 20 minutes.
The mercurial fly-half was then instrumental in Ashton's try -- Trinh-Duc's pass to Matthieu Bastareaud saw referee Nigel Owens raise the whistle to his lips for a forward pass but the Welshman refrained in what proved to be a good call.
Bastareaud then picked out Ashton who had cut inside and he raced over to touch down. Trinh-Duc added the extras for a 16-13 lead.
However, Conway then turned the match on its head before Toulon's final chance came and went as Ashton conceded a penalty.
© 2018 AFP