AT LONG last, our prayers have been answered!
A win over Leinster. And to top it off, in the capital during a game of immense importance. The performance was far from perfect, but when you have been the bridesmaid on so many occasions it really matters not how you get to the altar.
Considering the circumstances, it was really now or never for Peter O’Mahony and his players to end the stranglehold that Leinster have had over them for a very long time.
In the end, a moment of bravery and belief from Jack Crowley saw Munster inflict the fatal blow. Truth be told, Munster had enough possession and territory to win this game three times over and that is great news for Graham Rowntree and all involved in the coaching ticket.
The way the modern game is policed and officiated, when any side enters the opposing 22 they normally leave having registered some kind of score. On this occasion Munster either found themselves getting white-line fever or being repelled by the men in blue because of a lack of patience or somebody making a silly mistake.
On four separate occasions, Munster squandered try-scoring opportunities and when this happens you normally end up sitting in a dressing room that is immersed in remorse and regret.
Even though Leinster will be playing in the Champions Cup final next week against Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle, and the team Leo Cullen fielded was a far cry from his strongest, the majority expected Leinster to win this URC semi-final because of the incredible conveyor belt of talent they have at their disposal. Yet the belief and momentum Rowntree and the Munster players have gathered over the last few months means they are once again going places.
The last time a Munster captain went forward to receive any kind of silverware was 13 years ago but after a dismal start to this season, Peter O’Mahony somehow finds himself 80 minutes away from doing just that. The fact that this Munster squad will have to return to South Africa for a third time in two months for the Cape Town final against the Stormers won’t bother them.
From the first play right up to the final whistle, Munster’s new style was on display. While it is still a product that requires lots of improvement, at least we have a clear and precise picture of where it is going. It’s a complete contrast to Johan van Graan’s style of kick and hope.
Ben Healy, who started the game in the number 10 jersey, was pulling all the correct strings before he was removed with a head injury and it will be a shame to see him leave next year.
Healy, already capped for Scotland and Edinburgh-bound, will be a loss. He had a dream of playing international rugby and after he had spoken with Andy Farrell he had no choice but to pursue it elsewhere.
Jack Crowley, who was already on the field and playing with the number 12 jersey, took over the reins when Healy failed to return and the Innishannon man slotted in with ease.
Crowley has probably booked himself a ticket in Farrell’s World Cup squad and has all the attributes that the modern-day player requires. He also boasts that little bit of arrogance and refusal to accept mediocracy from those around him great leaders must have. All going well I believe we are looking at a future Munster and Irish captain.
Another player who has really impressed me over the last few games has been John Hodnett.
Small in stature, but with an engine that refuses to surrender a single inch of power, Hodnett is the kind of player who Munster can build a new era on; I’d be very happy to go into war with him.
The final will take place in two weeks and while Munster will once again assume the underdogs role for the game, the Stormers will be very wary of the animal they will be facing.
It might be one step too far for this Munster squad, but where once there was blackness there is now a bright light of progression.