ON paper Munster’s two opening-round victories against United Rugby Championship newbies the Cell C Sharks and the DHL Stormers may look quite similar if only using the scoreline as a gauge.
However, Munster captain Peter O’Mahony was under no illusions as to how different they were as he spoke after Saturday night’s 34-18 triumph over the Stormers at Thomond Park.
“A different animal," pretty much summed it all up, as this felt nothing like last week’s comfortable 42-17 triumph over the Sharks.
Munster had been 15-0 down in the last minute of the first half, and lucky to be only that much in arrears in reality, as Stormers out-half Manie Libbok had a try chalked off in the 24th minute, which would have put Munster in a huge hole.
O’Mahony was nothing but honest as he appraised Munster’s first-half display: “I think from what you saw in the first half that we really struggled with it. I’m not going to sit here and say that we weren’t good enough.
They were really impressive. They really made a mess of our breakdown, which is something that we obviously pride ourselves on a lot.
"We couldn’t get out of our half. Territory-wise, we had no possession in their half.
“And to be fair, the one time that we got down there just before half time, it gave us a proper lifeline, as we managed to sneak a try against the run of play.”
Given that the Stormers had blown an 11-point lead late in their game against Benetton in Round 1 Munster clearly hoped that their superior fitness levels and bench would get them over the line late on.
“They were incredibly impressive, but we knew we had a lot of fitness in our bank. We went out in the second half, and we knew we’d hang in there, and we managed to get some ball down in the right areas of the field and we scored some good tries.
“They were two really different halves, but we’re glad to come out with the result.”
Man of the Match Gavin Coombes may not have registered his customary try, but his physicality led the second-half fightback, and he too was relieved to get over the line.
“Yeah, they made us work for it. I think that in the first half they were excellent, they were very physical and caught us off guard. But look, we’ll look at that during the week and come back next week.
“It’s a team effort, and the boys dug in at the end of the first half and at the start of the second half, and I think that led into the last 20 minutes there and we got the bonus point from it.”