Deja Vu

HEC Hard Yards: The headlines all belong to ROG. Again.

More drama for Munster, tough encounters for Ulster and Connacht and Leinster seeking victory… it can only be the Heineken Cup!

NO, YOU’RE NOT dreaming. This isn’t a photograph of Ronan O’Gara from last week.

It’s a brand new one of the Munster fly-half celebrating his latest drop goal, match-winning success – this time in the Stade Ernest Wallon in France.

Of course, there was plenty of other action in the Heineken Cup this weekend and here’s what you need to know about the Irish performances.

Leicester 20-9 Ulster

A try scored by Tigers centre Matt Smith and a solid display by kicker Toby Flood (five penalties) were enough to condemn Ulster to their first European defeat of the season at Welford Road.

Superb kicking from Ian Humphreys actually had the visitors ahead no less than three times in the first half and the two number tens traded kicks until the fixture’s only five-point score came with 12 minutes remaining. Ulster, perhaps, deserved a losing bonus point for their efforts but it was not to be.

“We’re exceptionally disappointed,” coach Brian McLaughlin told BBC Sport (audio). “It was one that got away from us. At half time we felt we were in good shape. We had enough ball, we just couldn’t hang on to it and put Leicester under enough pressure when we had it.”

What it means: Ulster are now third in Pool 4 with four points. Leicester sit top with eight – two ahead of Clermont Auvergne, who were 54-3 winners over Aironi on Friday night.

Connacht 10-36 Toulouse

A record crowd of just over 9,000 supporters turned out to support Connacht as they took on former European champions Toulouse in Galway.

Lionel Beauxis turned up with his kicking boots well oiled and his scores, along with a try courtesy of Jean Bouilhou, ensured the visitors were comfortably ahead by 19 points at the break. A penalty try apiece for both teams and another five-point score from Yannick Nyanga settled matters.

Speaking to reporters afterwards (see, Connacht coach Eric Elwood said: “Toulouse were clinical, took their opportunities, and it was so, so difficult for us. I cannot fault the effort, we were up against quality.

“We grew into the game, and we had a much better second half. If they hadn’t got that score (from Nyanga), we would have won the second half on the scoreboard.”

What it means: Connacht are bottom of Pool 6, having lost to joint leaders Toulouse and Harlequins. Gloucester are third and Elwood’s men will be anxious to at least get off the mark before the end of their first ever Heineken Cup campaign.

Castres 24-27 Munster

Watch: O’Gara’s latest drop kick, complete with French commentary (no dictionary needed!)

YouTube credit: MrSamxara

O’Gara saved Munster’s bacon for the second week running – scoring a drop kick in added time to secure an unlikely victory for the Reds for the second consecutive match.

The visitors were behind for all of regulation time after a sluggish start but tries from Doug Howlett, Peter O’Mahony and replacement Will Chambers kept their hopes alive.

With the match tied at 24-24, Munster had the ball as the clock ticked into added time. Step up the Munster pack, who retained possession until O’Gara was in place, and it was left to Tomás O’Leary to feed the ball to his colleague… The rest, as they say, is history.

“It was a lot easier this week to be honest,” the man himself told reporters afterwards (see “I nailed the kick last week. This one was a case of letting the wind do the work – I just had to get the ball inside the right hand post and the wind would look after it.

“It was nicely struck but I think we probably shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position. We were good at times, poor at times so we have plenty of areas to look at. But the most important thing is it’s two wins out of two.”

What it means: Scarlets are top of Pool 1 courtesy of their bonus point win at Northampton, with Munster second on eight points. A straight battle between the Reds and their Welsh rivals at the moment, but it’s too early to discount the Saints playing a crucial role in what is to unfold over the coming months.

Leinster 38-13 Glasgow

Defending champions Leinster knew they had to get something from their contest against Glasgow after battling for a draw in France last week and it was all over at the RDS, bar the final scoreline, by half time.

The Warriors needed to get off to a decent start if they had any hope of causing an upset and while they went ahead through a Duncan Weir penalty, it was all Leinster after that.

Rob Kearney took just minutes to respond to the opening score, with Eoin O’Malley (2) and Gordon D’Arcy adding their own tries before the break. The second half was a scrappy bar brawl in comparison the opening period and though there were further tries for Henry Prygos (Glasgow) and Isaac Boss, the visitors never looked like threatening for a losing bonus point, never mind outright victory.

“You don’t tend to get anything easy with Glasgow, but it was certainly a relief to get through the way we did,” Leinster coach Joe Schmidt said (see ”We had to build some pretty combative phases to get over and we were just delighted to get the space on the scoreboard that took a bit of pressure off in the second half.

“The first 40 minutes was probably the best 40 we have put together. I thought we built the momentum really well and stayed really focused on the job in hand.”

What it means: Leinster are top of Pool 3 with seven points, two ahead of Bath who overcame the challenge of Montpellier later in the day by 16-13.

READ - As It Happened: Leinster v Glasgow

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