A fantastic second half display from NEC Harlequins was not enough to end Munster's winning run at Thomond Park in the Heineken Cup, as the visitors lost out by 15-9. For the second week in a row, all of Quins points came from the boot of Jeremy Staunton who kicked three penalties. However, two first half tries from Munster were crucial in deciding the outcome.
It was Staunton who put Quins in front after nine minutes, converting his first penalty after the home side were penalised at a scrum in front of the posts. Such were the problems at the set-piece that referee Hugh Watkins opted to send Quins Maurice Fitz Gerald and Munster's Marcus Horan to the sin bin, believing that the two prop forwards were the main cause of the problem.
With 14 minutes on the clock, Munster took the lead that they would never relinquish. A quickly taken free kick put the Quins defence on the back foot and with play spread wide to the left flank, winger Anthony Horgan was given a free run in to the corner. Ronan O'Gara pushed his conversion attempt across the face of the target but Munster now led 5-3.
The home side continued to exert pressure inside the Quins half and the visitors were then reduced to 13 players as the game went into the second quarter, with Staunton shown the yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. With their man advantage, Munster scored their second try 15 minutes before half-time.
The Quins pack seemed to be in control of possession as they drove their way out of their own half but at the resulting ruck, flanker Jim Williams broke free into the Quins twenty-two. Fellow back row forward Dennis Leamy was in support to take the scoring pass and had an unopposed route to the line. O'Gara added the two extra points and then converted a penalty a minute before the interval to give Munster a 12-point advantage at the break (15-3).
Quins dominated the second half straight from the restart and with the half five minutes old Staunton doubled their score with a second penalty. Four minutes later and Quins created their best try scoring opportunity of the match. A patient build-up led to George Harder taking an inside ball and powering towards the line, only to be held-up by a combination of Williams and Cullen.
Despite looking the better side, Quins failed to add to their tally and their cause was not helped when Ace Tiatia was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle as the game approached the final quarter. However, Quins held out with 14 men and with 13 minutes remaining, Staunton kicked his final penalty of the contest that set-up a grandstand finale.
Quins best chance of snatching a dramatic victory came right at the death as Luke Sherriff and Tiatia combined to take play into the Munster twenty-two. The referee adjudged that the ball went forward in the move and denied Staunton from possibly scoring the match winning try. The final whistle followed moments later, much to the relief of the home side.
Harlequins fan Ed Atkin won the Etihad Airways 'Up and Under' competition at the Northampton Saints game. As a result, he and a friend have won a holiday to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.