Biarritz’s Yachvili promises Spanish inquisition for Munster

DIMITRI YACHVILI has issued a stark warning to semi-final opponents Munster after claiming: we can win the Heineken Cup for the first time.

Biarritz reached the last four of Europe’s premier competition for the first time since 2006 following a thrilling 29-28 quarter-final success over the Ospreys in San Sebastian.

The French giants will return to northern Spain in the last four next month and Yachvili believes they will show no fear and are capable of going one better than their final experience at the Millennium Stadium four years ago – where Munster finally fulfilled their Heineken Cup dreams.

Scrum-half Yachvili said: “Of course we can win the competition and we will give our all. We are very proud to have beaten the Ospreys because they are a high-level team.

“We were the better side especially in the scrum and line-out but the Ospreys were better physically than us. They were fitter. They play less games so they came ready for the scrap and ran more than us.

“We were very powerful and efficient but we will need to improve against Munster.”

Yachvili was at the centre of controversy as the compelling tie at Estadio Anoeta drew to a frantic conclusion. The France star half-back appeared to deliberately knock-on Mike Phillips’ pass deep in injury-time but Irish official George Clancy denied the Welsh region a shot at goal and the chance to seal a mammoth victory.

And Yachvili admitted he was concerned that he may have cost his team-mates a semi-final spot and the prospect of another European clash with the Red Army.

Yachvili added: “I was worried it might be a penalty but the ball just touched my hand.

“The referee said, ‘Knock-on but there’s no time to play the scrum.’

“But I did the same in the first half and the referee didn’t say knock-on when they scored their first try.”

The Ospreys exit the competition at the quarter-final stage for the third successive season despite outscoring the French giants by three tries to two. But wing Shane Williams believes Munster can cause Biarritz major problems as they bid to reach the May final at Paris’s Stade de France.

Williams said: “Munster will have watched closely and they will realise Biarritz are beatable. We have shown you can score tries against Biarritz.

“We all know what kind of team Munster are and they will have to take their chances. They can’t afford to give away penalties or concede possession to the likes of Yachvili and Damien Traille. They are top class players.”

Biarritz centre Traille opened the scoring inside 29 seconds with the first of three drop goals to set the tone for a pulsating encounter.

Then Takudzwa Ngwenya produced a moment of magic on 12 minutes to give Munster wings Doug Howlett and Ian Dowling sleepless nights.

The USA wing sensation picked up the ball inside his 22 and scored a superb 80-metre solo effort by brushing aside Mike Phillips and then Williams with an electrifying turn of speed.

Williams said: “It was disappointing because it was a poor attempt at a tackle by me. But he took his try well.”

The Ospreys rallied through a rare score by Ryan Jones and Lee Byrne also crossed but Biarritz held a slender 16-15 interval lead.

Dan Biggar nudged the visitors ahead before Yachvili restored the advantage with a penalty before full-back Iain Balshaw touched down.

Ospreys replacement Nikki Walker set up a grandstand finish with six minutes remaining but Biarritz closed the game out as John Isaac’s men bid for European glory. Isaac said: “It was a close game but I thought we were full value for our win. Roll on the semi-finals.”

BIARRITZ: Balshaw, Ngwenya, Hunt, Traille, Bolakoro, Peyrelongue, Yachvili, Coetzee, August, Johnstone, Thion, Carizza, Lauret, Harinordoquy, Faure. Replacements: Mignardi for Balshaw (53), Gobelet for Bolakoro (64), Barcella for Coetzee (50), Terrain for August (70), Hall for Carizza (41), Alexandre for Lauret (63).

OSPREYS: Byrne, Bowe, Bishop, Hook, Williams, Biggar, M. Phillips, James, Bennett, A. Jones, A. Jones, J. Thomas, Collins, Holah, R. Jones. Replacements: Walker for Bishop (63), Shervington for Bennett (76), Gough for A. Jones (63), Tiatia for Holah (69).

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU).

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