Match in a minute: Frantic finale sees Leicester take spoils from Munster

Match in a minute: Frantic finale sees Leicester take spoils from Munster
Munster's Simon Zebo is tackled by Manu Tuilagi of Leicester Tigers today. Picture: Sportsfile

By Simon Lewis

Match result: Leciester 18 Munster 16

Key moment: It all came down to the final moments after Munster had snatched the lead at 16-15 with five minutes to go. The frenetic finale saw CJ Stander carry over the halfway line into contact and at the ruck Munster went off their feet. Leicester skipper Ed Slater pointed to the points and from inside his own half Owen Williams sent over the penalty as an eruption of noise swept across Welford Road.

Talking point: There will be deep disappointment in the Munster camp at this late, late loss but they will travel home from England with a losing bonus point and the knowledge that Racing 92, whom they still have to play twice, are all but out of the competition following their back to back defeats by Glasgow. A quarter-final place is still in their hands.

Key man: When asked to step up to the plate by his captain, Leicester fly-half held his nerve and got the job done, his 52-metre penalty sealing an invaluable European win for the Tigers and quite possibly saving his boss Richard Cockerill's job. Williams' goal-kicking was the difference throughout, his 100 per cent return from six attempts at goal keeping Leicester's qualification hopes alive.

Ref watch: Pascal Gauzere was not a popular referee at Welford Road, annoying the home supporters with many of his decisions, including a no-arms cleanout by Tom Youngs and the yellow card he brandished at Manu Tuilagi for a late shoulder charge on Rory Scannell, although both merited sanctioning under the latest World Rugby crackdown on dangerous tackles. Munster's own discipline was not as impressive as the previous week when only five penalties were conceded at Thomond Park, matching that total by half-time. Gauzere had no option but to card Simon Zebo in the second half after his late tackle on Adam Thompstone after the Tigers wing had kicked ahead.

Penalties conceded: Leicester 14 Munster 13

Injuries: No apparent injury concerns for Munster with Keith Earls getting through 69 minutes having shaken off a groin injury to start on the wing.

Next up: Munster will return to their Guinness Pro12 campaign with the intention of maintaining their lead at the top of the table as they welcome arch-rival Leinster to Thomond Park on St Stephen's Day, the first of two interprovincial derbies over the festive season. With a trip to Galway to face Connacht on New Year's Eve.

MATCH REPORT:

LEICESTER 18 MUNSTER 16

Owen Williams gave Leicester a European Champions Cup lifeline by kicking six penalties to floor heavyweights Munster in dramatic fashion at Welford Road.

The Welshman's winning 52-metre strike came a minute from time as Leicester triumphed 18-16 just a week after shipping 38 points against the same opponents.

Munster hooker Niall Scannell's 75th-minute try, which fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal converted, looked to have thwarted Leicester, but Williams struck after visiting flanker CJ Stander was penalised.

It meant that Leicester ended Munster's 100% Pool One record heading into the final two rounds of group fixtures next month.

Leicester, European champions in 2001 and 2002, still have it all to do in their quest for a last-eight place, but fly-half Williams' 100 per cent kicking accuracy relieved pressure on both the Tigers squad and rugby director Richard Cockerill as the home side prevailed.

Tigers have lost only one of their last 34 European games at Welford Road,, and despite seeing England centre Manu Tuilagi sin-binned for the second successive game - this time following a shoulder charge on Munster's Rory Scannell - they ultimately delivered.

Williams' clincher followed Munster full-back Simon Zebo's sin-binning for a late challenge on Tigers wing Adam Thompstone 12 minutes earlier.

And, while Leicester themselves ended the game a man down when skipper Tom Youngs received a yellow card, the visitors could ultimately find no way back, although three Bleyendaal penalties ensured they headed for home with a losing bonus point.

And it kept Munster just two points behind group leaders Glasgow with a game in and, with Leicester holding third spot, a further three points behind.

Leicester showed three changes from the side crushed in Limerick last weekend, with centre Jack Roberts, prop Pat Cilliers and flanker Luke Hamilton all starting, while Williams switched to number 10 instead of an injured Freddie Burns.

Bleyendaal, who kicked 18 points to underpin Tigers' downfall at Thomond Park, opened his account with a 10th-minute strike after Leicester full-back George Worth was penalised for a late challenge on his opposite number Zebo.

Conor Murray reacts after defeat to Leicester Tigers. Picture: Sportsfile
Conor Murray reacts after defeat to Leicester Tigers. Picture: Sportsfile

Leicester just could not get going, being guilty of spilling possession that undermined any attacking consistency, and when Munster mounted a first sustained spell of pressure, the Tigers infringed and a second Bleyendaal penalty made it 6-0.

The stakes were huge for Leicester, but they initially performed like a team riddled with nerves, and Munster missed a strong chance to move further ahead when Bleyendaal drifted an angled penalty attempt wide.

But there was no end to Leicester's frustration, and as Tom Youngs remonstrated with Munster players, Tuilagi was yellow-carded by French referee Pascal Gauzere following a reckless challenge on his opposite number Rory Scannell.

As so often happens, though, it galvanised the team temporarily reduced to 14 men, and Leicester opened their account through a Williams penalty six minutes before the break while Tuilagi was still off.

Williams then tied things up with a second penalty, only for Bleyendaal to miss a second successive chance after Roberts infringed, and a tense opening 40 minutes ended all-square.

Bleyendaal and Williams exchanged penalties within 10 minutes of the restart, and while the game might have been short on true attacking class, intensity levels were high-octane as Leicester unquestionably went up a level after half-time.

Roberts then broke from inside his own 22, and after play went through several pairs of hands, Leicester gained a penalty after Munster prop John Ryan infringed, and Williams' fourth successful penalty put Tigers ahead for the first time.

Zebo was then punished for taking out Thompstone after the Leicester player had kicked ahead, and Williams once again accepted his opportunity, before the late drama that saw him strike from inside his own half after Scannell crossed to thwart Munster's victory hopes.

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