Munster secured a Heineken Cup quarter final place after a 26-10 victory over Castres in Group A on Saturday. Johne Murphy and Fourie du Preez scored tries for Munster, while Yannick Caballero scored for Castres.
Castres played well despite being unable to reach the quarter finals, while Munster were guilty of poor handling. Munster deserved their victory, however. The Irish side dominated the scrum throughout, forcing Castres into numerous penalties. Ronan O’Gara was in good form and only missed one penalty.
Castres made the better start, but it was Munster who opened the scoring in the 8th minute. Munster safely collected their lineout and the ball was passed to Johne Murphy. The back ran through a poor tackle and touched the ball down for Munster’s first try of the match. O’Gara added the conversion and scored from a penalty in the 16th minute to give Munster an early 10-0 lead.
Castres reduced the arrears in the 18th minute after some lax Munster defending. A quickly taken penalty took Munster by surprise and Caballero ran over the Munster line for an easy try. Bernard dispatched the conversion, slightly making up for a missed penalty earlier in the half.
Each team enjoyed periods of dominance in the half, but Castres failed to add to their score before half-time. Two penalties from Ronan O’Gara gave Munster a 16-7 lead at the interval. It could have been even better for Munster, but stout defending from Castres forced a penalty in the 40th minute as Munster looked likely to score another try.
Castres started the second half well and Bernard scored with a well-struck penalty from midfield. Munster regained their nine point lead with a Ronan O’Gara penalty in the 52nd minute, however.
Castres were still threatening to cause a shock, but Munster wrapped up the victory with a 68th minute try. After a sustained period of pressure, du Preez got over the Castres try line to make it 26-10.
Munster opened up their play as they tried to gain a bonus point, but poor handling meant they never threatened the Castres defence again.
Munster are now the first seed and can gain a home match in the quarter final with a victory over Northampton next weekend.