Superhero O’Gara drops another bomb

YOU might as well send him onto the field with a cape, two flashes on his chest and call him OGaraMan, such are the superheroic powers that keep saving the good citizens of Munster from the villainous threat of Heineken Cup failure.

Proving lightning can strike twice, OGaraMan came to the rescue for the second week in a row, deploying his famed drop-goal weapon in the nick of time to deliver a killer blow and score a priceless away victory for truth, justice and the Munster way.

Yet with great power there must also come great responsibility, and as a grateful public swooned at their hero’s feet, both OGaraMan and Captain O’Connell reminded their faithful comrades in red that in future the drop goal must only be used sparingly and more work must be done to avoid such a necessity.

“I did enjoy it. It was nicely struck but I think we probably shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position,” said the superhero of his game-winning kick against Castres at Stade Ernest Wallon, having removed his cape and returned to his everyday, no-nonsense Ronan O’Gara persona.

“I think we were good at times, poor at times today so we have plenty of areas to look at. But the most important thing is it’s two wins out of two. This is a huge competition for us and maybe a year ago I think we’d have crumbled in that situation.”

Ten months on from a yellow card in Toulon that put the tin hat on a miserable pool campaign away from home, O’Gara highlighted a change in attitude from the Munster players when reminded of the three defeats on the road that condemned the province to a first season without a Heineken Cup quarter-final in 13 years.

Having turned over last season’s finalists Northampton Saints by the seat of their pants and with thanks to O’Gara’s nerves of steel last weekend in Limerick, beating Castres, regardless of the manner of it, must be seen a big turnaround and a massive boost.

“Yeah it is,” O’Gara said. “We’d not even focused on that but it’s a good point. We were mentally weak away from home last year. We were in two games we should have won, London Irish and Ospreys, and we got hosed by Toulon. That can happen but this is hopefully a step in the right direction, in terms of mental ability.”

Now, with the home and away series with Scarlets coming next in rounds three and four, beginning with a trip to west Wales on December 10, having taken on the status of a top of the table clash that few could have predicted, there are many more issues to resolve.

A week on from getting out of jail against a superior Northampton side, there were still problems aplenty for Munster. Such as the individual errors and defensive slips that allowed Castres to take an 11-0 lead inside the first 12 minutes and the coughing up of the ball by Paul O’Connell in front of his own line that let the French side in for their second try, through substitute back Pierre Gilles Lakafia in the 36th minute.

“I think there’s a lot still to be done really,” O’Connell said. “There was times last week when we were beating ourselves and there were times today when we were beating ourselves as well.

“I don’t think the good teams in the Heineken Cup do that, it’s hard enough to come by points yourself, not to mention giving points away. You look at my turnover on our line — it’s a try. You look at some of the penalties we conceded, some of the breaks we conceded we just can’t give away points in this competition.

“If a team is going to score, they need to really earn them and at times we didn’t make them earn them.”

In short, Munster cannot carry on playing this way and relying on a benevolent superhero to sweep to their rescue at the 11th hour. It makes for great box office but O’Connell and his players are only too aware that it is a recipe for a very limited run.

Still, we’ll all be tuning in next time for the next riveting episode.

CASTRES OLYMPIQUE: F Denos (R Tales, 64); M Evans, P Bonnefond, P Garcia, M Andreu (P Lakafia, 5); P Bernard, T Lacrampe (R Teulet, 70); A Peikrishvili (M Coetzee, 57), B Mach (M Bonello, 13), K Wihongi (L Ducalcon, 45); S Murray (M Rolland, 74), I Tekori; J Bornman, Y Caballero (R Capo Ortega, 62), C Masoe (capt).

MUNSTER: J Murphy; D Howlett, D Barnes (W Chambers, 43), L Mafi, D Hurley; R O’Gara, C Murray (T O’Leary, 57); W du Preez, D Varley, B Botha; D Ryan (D O’Callaghan, 50), P O’Connell, capt; P O’Mahony (D Fogarty, 70), N Ronan, J Coughlan (D Leamy, 66).

Replacements not used: M Horan, J Hayes, I Keatley

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England).

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