GAVIN COOMBES scored a goal in the 78th minute as Munster from behind in Castres to reach the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.
The fourth time was the charm as Number 8 came up from close range after Tadhg Beirne took another penalty, a free-kick to hit the 5m line.
Munster had previously blown three penalties to touch, making the formation a mess each time.
But Coombes’ score made up for those earlier flaws.
Thomas Larregain’s 28th-minute effort was the highlight of a messy but engaging opening half.
He was the first to arrive when Ben Botica broke through Munster’s solid defence.
Jack Crowley gave Munster the lead in the 11th minute with a penalty after Santiago Arata misplaced his foot.
Munster quickly plotted a settlement and was forced to gain the upper hand. They kept things simple in their innings, intelligently kicking for territory, while Beirne and captain Peter O’Mahony ramped up the pressure on the piece and broke.
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But the French were disciplined, giving less and causing more trouble for the province than they expected. The game took the lead as temperatures hovered around zero at the Stade Pierre Fabre despite Castres reporting six positive Covid-19 results from routine testing on Wednesday.
Those test results account for some of the home team’s 13 changes to the team that beat Stade Francais in the Top 14 last Saturday.
The visitors, meanwhile, have made five changes from the side that knocked out Ulster last weekend.
Munster managed to take the lead in the first ten minutes of the second half, thanks to two Crowley penalties.
But they lost two incredible chances on their own in the 55th and 66th minutes. Botica converted both to 13-9.
Castres then tried to close the game.
They seemed to have played percentages better than Munster before, until Coombes’ late score was converted by Crowley.
POINT POINT – Castres: Try, Larregain, child, Botica, pen, Botica 2 Munster: Try, Coombes, child, Crowley, pen, Crowley 3
https://www.thesun.ie/sport/rugby-union/8208931/castres-munster-gavin-coombes-try-champions-cup-knockout-stages/ Gavin Coombes strikes with late attempt to send van Graan’s men into Champions Cup knockout