Munster losing on penalties after epic effort at the Aviva was a cruel blow

Six penalty kicks, three different players from six different positions to decide who moved on to play Leinster in the semi-final next weekend. It was horrific, yet beautiful and simple in its design.
Munster losing on penalties after epic effort at the Aviva was a cruel blow

Munster's Ben Healy attempts a penalty kick to win the game in normal time

WITH the clock approaching 100 minutes in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, the press box was in a state of confusion.  With the sides level at 24 points each and dropkicks going wide left, right and centre, the rule book became journalists' best friend.

We were heading to penalties in the Heineken Cup quarter-final tie, the first of its kind since way back in 2009 when Leicester beat Cardiff to reach the final and none of us were prepared for what we were about to witness.

Six penalty kicks, three different players from six different positions to decide who moved on to play Leinster in the semi-final next weekend. 

It was horrific, yet beautiful and simple in its design.

But what a cruel way for Munster to exit this competition.  I know there had to be a winner, but this was unexpected and the questions will still be asked today, is this the right way for the game to end?  

Could we not have found time for a replay, but that is all unimportant now.

Munster's Joey Carbery kicks and misses a penalty. 
Munster's Joey Carbery kicks and misses a penalty. 

The kicks went ahead.  Joey Carbery, Ben Healy and Conor Murray were the three Munster kickers.  In the end, Munster lost 4-2 and all three will come away feeling down and responsible for this loss in their own way.

Healy was wide with two kicks, Murray one, while Carbery left six points behind during the game and when the margins are so small and important, that hurt.

It was difficult to watch, yet you could not turn away.  The pressure on the players was incredible.  

The 40,000 at the game held their breath.  No one had come prepared for this outcome.  I'm not even sure the players were.

I have seen penalty kicks decide soccer games before.  In fact, I have even seen them at Gaelic Games, but this was different.  

It was new. It was hard to understand the pressure the players on both sides were under.

And as each set of kicks took place and the ball moved to another spot, the pressure grew and unfortunately for Munster, Toulouse players Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos and Romain Ntomack kept their nerve to seal a famous win.

While there have been more important games between these two sides before, this was unique.  

Munster's Conor Murray takes his second kick. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Munster's Conor Murray takes his second kick. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Munster to a man gave their all, they died for the cause, none more so than Peter O'Mahony, but they lost nothing in defeat.

Yes, there were plenty of errors from Munster, but this was a cruel way to lose.

They deserved better, but it was a privilege to have been there to see them go down fighting. They lost the Munster way. That I can take.

Bring on Leinster in the league in two weeks.

I can't wait. 

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