Munster face an anxious wait as O'Gara cited for kicking Edinburgh secondrow Cox during Murrayfield win
Ronan O’Gara was last night cited for kicking Edinburgh lock Sean Cox during the second half of Munster’s win in Murrayfield last Sunday.
The outhalf will will face a disciplinary hearing in Dublin on Thursday prior to Munster’s must-win Heineken Cup tie against Racing Metro on Sunday at Thomond Park (12.45).
O’Gara has been cited under IRB law 10.4 (c) “Kicking an opponent” and under IRB sanctions for foul play. Law 10.4 (c) carries the following sanction entry points: low end, four weeks; mid-range, eight weeks; top end, 12+ to 52 weeks.
The next few days will be an anxious wait for Munster. Even the low end suspension of four weeks would also rule him out of Ireland’s opening Six Nations games away to Wales and at home to England.
However, O’Gara is likely to claim it was an act of retribution. And his disciplinary record of just three yellow cards in 108 Heineken Cup games and six in 230 games for Munster, along with just two in 126 games, ought to stand to him. However, there is now a strong possibility O’Gara could miss the Racing Metro game.
Superior try tally
Munster will have the advantage of kicking off the penultimate duo of pool games, by which stage they will know the results of other teams competing for one of the two runners-up slots, namely Montpellier, Leinster and Biarritz.
However, given that up to six teams could finish second in their groups on 19 points, and mindful that a Toulouse bonus point defeat away to Leicester in the ensuing Sunday afternoon game would also leave the French team on 19 points with a superior try tally, the likelihood is that they will have to chase a bonus point win against Racing.
It may also play into their hands that Racing have effectively been knocked out of contention after surrendering a 25-12 lead in losing without a bonus point to Saracens at the Stade de la Beaujoire in Nantes on Saturday with a remarkably self-destructive performance.
Racing could conceivably qualify for the Amlin Challenge Cup by beating Munster. But the Parisian club, running a disappointing ninth in the Top 14 and seven points adrift of the end-of-season play-off places, may be mindful of their league game away to Bordeaux/Begles the following Friday.
Munster will also be grateful of a week between matches after working themselves almost to a standstill on the big, cloying Murrayfield pitch.
“That’s what you get in the middle of January,” said openside flanker Tommy O’Donnell. “The sleety snow came down in the morning and I was looking out and thinking, ‘well, this is going to be an effort; it’s going to be an absolute battle here’. And it was.”
“It’s tough to get four tries in that kind of environment. And that’s exactly what it was, a tough, sticky game. Your energy’s getting sapped because it’s slow rucks and then you’re looking for big efforts in running and chasing rucks the whole time. So I’m happy with a win . . . we’re still fighting, we’re still there and there’s all to play for next week.”
O’Donnell admitted there was a feeling in the post-match away dressing room last Sunday that they had left a bonus point behind them, but argued: “You approach every game looking to win it, no matter how that comes – whether it’s penalties or not, but win the game first. Whether it comes by tries or by five penalties, you have to win the game, whether it’s going to be a sneaky one or it’s going to be a romp you have to win. I suppose we could have done with a try in the first half. It didn’t come and we were unlucky in a way, but a win is a win.”
There is already an acknowledgement within the Munster camp that they are probably going to need a bonus point win come kick-off to advance to the knock-out stages for the 14th in 15 seasons.
Although looking short of backline variation and confidence, when asked where the tries are going to come from, O’Donnell maintained: “The tries are going to come.”
Full to capacity
“Just a bit of belief and Munster, in Thomond Park, with their backs against the wall, we’ve done it I don’t know how many times before. The belief is still there, the players are still there. We’ll just take it step by step next week and we’ll score one, then two and work our way up and see how it goes.”
Unlike a cavernous Murrayfield, even with a Sunday brunchtime kick-off, Thomond Park should be full to capacity and expectant.
“I’m looking for the place to be rocking. You see the amount of fans who travelled over today, it was exceptional. You could hear them in the warm-up and you knew it was something special.
“There was family, there was friends and they were all shouting. You can’t beat the fans that we have.”