Heineken Cup: Munster move into last four at Toulouse's expense
Munster maintained their perfect record against French opposition at Thomond Park with a 47-23 thrashing of Toulouse.
By Rob Lancaster
Last Updated: 05/04/14 10:50pm
Keith Earls set the tone with an early try as the two-time champions of Europe eased through past the team they defeated to lift the trophy back in 2008.
The task facing Toulouse always looked a tough one - no Top 14 side had won on 22 previous visits at Thomond Park - but they did threaten to make a game of it when three Luke McAlister penalties left the half-time score at 13-9.
However the hosts blew what appeared to be an even contest wide open with two tries in the space of six minutes after the break, CJ Stander quickly following Dave Kilcoyne in reaching the line.
Hosea Gear did at least manage the pick of the tries for Toulouse, while Joe Tekori also touched down for the big-spending visitors.
Yet for all their star names they were simply no match for the might of Munster, who rubbed salt in the wounds of their ailing opponents late on when Simon Zebo and Paul O'Connell touched down to round out a real hammering.
Toulouse had conceded just four tries during the pool stages yet saw their line breached after only four minutes in Limerick, Zebo's long pass setting up fellow winger Earls after Munster had decided they wanted more than just the three points on offer from a delayed penalty.
Ian Keatley knocked over the conversion and also two penalties, though for all Munster's dominance they still only led by four at the break. They were also dealt a blow with the loss of Peter O'Mahoney in the 19th minute with an arm injury.
Promoted to start at fly-half having initially been set for a seat on the bench, McAlister kept Toulouse in a game they had been comfortably second best in with a hat-trick of successful penalty attempts.
Yet all their efforts to claw their way back after such a shocking beginning were wasted when they leaked 14 points in a hurry straight after the interval.
Although Conor Murray was dragged down inches from the line, Kilcoyne was on hand to plunge over. Keatley knocked over the conversion, then quickly found himself taking another shot at the uprights after Stander, who excelled after replacing the hurt O'Mahoney, went in from close range.
Kilcoyne's joy at crossing was somewhat short-lived as he was yellow carded, along with Toulouse prop Yohan Montes, once referee Nigel Owens' patience had finally worn out at scrum time.
When Gear produced a moment to savour on an otherwise forgettable afternoon for Guy Noves' troops, the score was 27-16 with 20 minutes still to play.
Munster, though, emphatically pulled clear in the closing stages. A Keatley penalty was followed by a try for Casey Laulala, while Zebo also helped himself to a score. There was the rare sight of O'Connell reaching the line as well, the lock's effort rounding out a thoroughly convincing performance by the hosts.