Peter O’Mahony vows Munster will fight for quarter-final spot

Skipper believes losing bonus point from Ian Keatley’s late penalty could prove crucial

 Noa Nakaitaci of Clermont Auvergne makes the break that led to his try during the European Rugby Champions Cup  match against Munster at Stade Marcel Michelin. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Noa Nakaitaci of Clermont Auvergne makes the break that led to his try during the European Rugby Champions Cup match against Munster at Stade Marcel Michelin. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

 

Clermont 26 Munster 19

Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony accepts their European Champions Cup quarter-final qualification hopes rest in the hands of others but he is adamant his battling side will not give up until the final whistle.

A last-gasp penalty goal from Ian Keatley earned Munster a losing bonus point at Stade Marcel Michein as French giants Clermont Auvergne did the double over the Irish province.

Despite that bonus point though, the two-time former European champions face a fight to progress from a hugely competitive Pool One, as they now trail leaders Clermont by four points and second-placed Saracens by three ahead of contests against Sarries and Sale Sharks next month.

O’Mahony is determined to be positive, however, saying: “We dug in and got a point and you cannot yet tell what is going to happen in terms of qualification. That point could prove crucial.

“Now we have got two huge games to look forward to in the new year against Saracens and Sale Sharks when we have to fight for our lives.

“We will always pride ourselves on our physicality and we have put ourselves in a position where we can still qualify.

“I am hugely proud of the lads digging in and pulling something out at a hugely difficult place to come and play.

Second Captains

“We ran into a very good side that is playing really well. Last week against them we were guilty of making too many simple errors, whereas this time we let ourselves down with some poor kick-chase in the first half.

“We did our homework on them once again and I think we played a little bit smarter this week. Our halfbacks were brilliant and we tried to play around them and I thought JJ Hanrahan had a super game.

“But it was a difficult battle, they are a hugely physical side and very good technically at the breakdown.

“We had two good wins at the start of the group campaign and now we can look forward to those two huge return games next month.”

It was the first time in 16 seasons of back-to-back games in the middle of the Pool matches that Munster had not picked up a single win, and the victory for 2013 Heineken Cup finalists Clermont put them narrowly clear of Saracens at the top of the group.

Clermont’s England fullback Nick Abendanon said: “We are in a commanding position and we have to capitalise on that.

“As a collective we have played pretty well and done exactly what we need to do. These two wins over Munster have put us in a very encouraging position and now the pool is ours to lose.

“Of the two games we have got left Saracens is going to be the toughest, although Manchester is always a niggly place to go to face Sale Sharks, especially on a Friday night.”

CLERMONT AUVERGNE: Abendanon; Nakaitaci, Rougerie, Fofana, Guildford; Lopez, Parra; Domingo, Kayser, Zirakashvili; Cudmore, Vahaamahina; Chouly, Lapandry, Lee.

Replacements: Stanley for Rougerie (59 mins), Radosavljevic for Parra (65 mins), Chaume for Domingo (69), Ric for Zirakashvili (both 69 mins), Ulugia for Kayser, Pierre for Cudmore, James for Lopez. Not used: ,Bardy.

MUNSTER: Jones; Conway, Smith, Hanrahan, Zebo; Keatley, Murray; J Ryan, Casey, Botha; Foley, O’Connell; P O’Mahony, O’Donnell, Stander.

Replacements: Copeland for Stander (23-29 mins & 61 mins); Archer for Botha, Murphy for Zebo (both 73 mins); Hurley for Smith (79 mins). Not used: O’Byrne, Guinazu, B Holland, Williams.

Sin Bin: Jones (45 mins). Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

Attendance: 17,723

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