O'Gara rains on Wasps' parade


Last updated at 21:21 20 January 2008

The champions of Europe retreated from Limerick yesterday saluting Ronan O'Gara's 'masterclass' in stripping them of their title.

Munster's rediscovery of

their old selves behind their

captain's flawless control

sends them to the quarterfinals

with nothing to fear —

even if the next step towards

a second Cardiff final in two

years takes them, in April, to

Gloucester where the locals

are unbeaten in 21 matches

spanning 20 months.


Wasps, for one, will not be

the least surprised should

the crown end up where

theylost it, at Thomond Park.

A bad night for English rugby

was made worse by Simon

Shaw's elimination from the

Six Nations starter against

Wales at Twickenham on

Saturday week — and

probably their second match in Italy — after the giant lock

was carried off with

damaged ankle ligaments.

The rain had been sheeting

down for hours on Saturday

when O'Gara called his

forwards into a huddle to

demand a big performance.

Directing operations behind

a dominant pack, he hardly

called a wrong shot. If he

had played better in a big

match for his province,

nobody could remember it.

Wasps head coach Shaun

Edwards said: "That was a

masterclass from an

outstanding player. In those

conditions, Ronan is one of

the best, if not the best in

the world.

"His variety of kicks and

overall control of the game

was superb. You can see why

he is such a hero to the

people of Munster — a good

example of someone who

plays with his brains.

'I am a fully paid-up member

of his fan club. If I hadn't

been coaching Wasps, I'd

have stood up and

applauded him."

Wasps had too much pride

and nous to capitulate the

way Gloucester and Sale had

done at the same venue in

recent pool deciders, but

they lost all realistic hope of

saving their title with

O'Gara's fourth penalty

almost half an hour before

the end.

That it proved too much for

Wasps was no fault of Danny

Cipriani's. For all O'Gara's

mastery, England's fly half

pretender never suffered by

comparison, raising brief

hopes that Wasps would

somehow leave another

pock mark on the Munster

legend, the way Leicester

had done 12 months earlier

It could all have been so

different after David

Doherty's chip-and-chase 14

minutes into the downpour.

The 20-year-old wing, in at

short notice after Paul

Sackey had been taken ill,

took a split second to regain

his balance and was in the

act of diving on the ball as it

skidded to the end of the ingoal

area when a Munster

boot beat him to it.

It belonged to O'Gara, an

intervention as critical as

any of his five goals or the

break which sent Denis

Leamy steaming over for the

only try late in the game. "I don't think I've ever

moved faster in my life. I couldn't believe I got there

first," said O'Gara.

In the heat of battle, the

Wasps line-out crumbled to

the alarming extent that

they lost seven throws in the

course of losing Shaw and

Lawrence Dallaglio to the

sin-bin. For all their bravery,

they had no answer to

Munster's demonstration of

how to play wet weather

rugby without dropping the

ball. For O'Gara, a few more

stitches in his torn right ear

on top of the 20 put there

the previous week was a

small price to pay for glory.

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