Dramatic endgame fires Munster into Euro semis
Munster 20 Toulon 19
MUNSTER added a dramatic late paragraph to a changing script at a packed Thomond Park yesterday to secure a place in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup. They will be away to the winners of this afternoon’s tie between Clermont and Racing.
Leinster may join them in the final four, on the other side of the draw, depending on the outcome of events at the Aviva today. Leinster have the added incentive — courtesy of Scarlets beating La Rochelle on Friday night — of a home draw if they can get past Saracens.
Connacht’s bid for a place in the last four of the Challenge Cup came up short in the Sportsground earlier yesterday when they left it too late against Gloucester. That ends their chances of qualifying for the Champions Cup via the second tier tournament, and given their Guinness PRO14 issues their season is effectively over.
For Munster however it’s very much alive on both fronts. It didn’t look that way in the final quarter when they went from 13-9 ahead to 13-19 behind in the space of eight minutes. They also survived a try chance squandered on the line by Toulon winger Semi Radradra.
But a fabulous individual effort by Andrew Conway saved Munster. He did really well to field a touch kick by Toulon replacement Francois Trinh-Duc and to run it back through a maze of defenders to score. Ian Keatley added the points to put Munster ahead and they hung on to that lead despite intense pressure.
“When a lot of people believe it’s incredible what human beings can do,” coach Johann van Graan said afterwards. “It’s incredible what we did today. I could mention every guy who took the field. They really put their bodies on the line. Munster magic came through today.
“There were a lot of ebbs and swings in that game but we fought our way back into it. I think gratitude is the main word. It’s an honour to coach this team. If you’ve got 23 guys who believe and a management team who believe and a club who believes then things can come through.”
Captain Peter O’Mahony, the man of the match, credited the defence of Munster’s backs against a physically bigger and more experienced outfit. And Munster had to cope with the loss of Simon Zebo. Along with Conway his participation was in doubt for much of the week but he was injured in the opening phase before hobbling off before half-time.
Andrew Conway scores the decisive late try in Thomond Park yesterday. Photo: Diarmuid Greene
Ian Keatley added the crucial conversion late on