A return to Heineken Cup action saw NEC Harlequins suffer their heaviest defeat of the season, as they lost to Munster at fortress Thomond Park by 51-17. Beaten finalists in 2000 and semi-finalists last season, Munster scored six tries in total and condemned Quins to their fourth defeat from five matches in the competition. A try from Tony Diprose, seven minutes into the second half, gave Quins hope as it cut the deficit to nine points (26-17) but the home side then dominated the final quarter and finished comprehensive winners.
After Quins made a promising start to the match, it was Munster who opened the scoring after five minutes. Flanker Jim Williams was involved twice in the move that ended with centre Jason Holland diving over to score. Fly half Ronan O'Gara failed to add the two extra points but the home side were on their way. Paul Burke put Quins first points on the board with a penalty ten minutes later, which cut the Munster lead to two points, though O'Gara responded in similar fashion shortly afterwards.
With 28 minutes on the clock, Munster registered their second try of the afternoon. From a lineout five-metres from the Quins line, hooker Frankie Sheahan forced his way over for the touchdown. Despite missing the conversion, O'Gara made amends by kicking his second penalty of the match five minutes later, making the score 16-3 in Munster's favour.
As the game approached half-time, it was Quins turn to score from a close-range lineout. The pack drove towards the line and 19 year-old scrum half Nick Duncombe, making his Quins debut, crossed for the try. Burke converted but Munster's response was immediate. With the game in first half injury time, number eight Anthony Foley dived in under the posts presenting O'Gara with a simple conversion that made the half-time score 23-10.
It was O'Gara who opened the scoring three minutes after the interval with his third penalty of the afternoon. Quins hit back with their second try of the match, which again came from a catch and drive from a lineout. Tony Diprose scored his first try for the club that Burke expertly converted from wide-out to make the score 26-17, though this would be Quins last points of the game.
Two penalties from O'Gara stretched the Munster lead to 15 points and as the game entered the final quarter, full back Dominic Crotty crossed for the home side's fourth try, which O'Gara failed to convert. With Tu Tamarua in the sin-bin for the final ten minutes, Munster captain Mick Galwey and flanker Alan Quinlan added the home sides fifth and sixth tries respectively. O'Gara kicked both conversions to take his personal tally up to 21 points in the game and Munster over the 50 point mark.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.