‘Rac­ing came out of the trap and we failed to stop it’

Mun­ster cap­tain O’Ma­hony ad­mits his side lost early mo­men­tum to Rac­ing

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby - GERRY THORN­LEY

This was Mun­ster’s sixth semi-fi­nal de­feat since last lift­ing the tro­phy in 2008, and for all the talk of learn­ing les­sons from such set­backs, some are be­com­ing wea­rier of them more than oth­ers. Hav­ing now played in four los­ing semi-fi­nals, Peter O’Ma­hony falls into that cat­e­gory.

“I am get­ting tired of learn­ing les­sons my­self, per­son­ally. They all hurt, these ones, but I am very proud of the way the lads showed up in the sec­ond half. We were be­hind by a fair bit but we kept the head down and gained some mo­men­tum in the sec­ond half but it was too much and too late at the end. When you give a side like that a lead like that, you are leav­ing your­self with a huge task. But as I said, I was proud of the way the lads showed up in the sec­ond half.”

Asked to ex­plain what he meant by get­ting tired of learn­ing les­sons, O’Ma­hony said: “I am tired of los­ing semi-fi­nals.”

Re­flect­ing on the events of the day, O’Ma­hony was can­did. “Look, we strug­gled in the first 30/35 min­utes. We knew they’re very pow­er­ful when they get mo­men­tum and they come out of the trap and we failed to stop it. I didn’t think we de­fended them well enough and we lost a lot of col­li­sions in the first 30 min­utes, which ul­ti­mately cost us. I think when you’re go­ing to cough up 21 points against a side of that qual­ity in the space of 20 min­utes, you’re go­ing to put your­self on the back foot.

Hard to stop

“They moved the ball as a re­sult of us not win­ning col­li­sions. As a re­sult of that, they got mo­men­tum. They are very hard to stop when they get mo­men­tum. They’re big men, front-foot ball. With a pack and back line like that, they’re very hard to stop. We knew that, we spoke about that be­fore and we failed to stop their mo­men­tum, and straight away you’re on the back foot with a team like that.”

Rac­ing also stole four of Mun­ster’s line-outs, all in prime at­tack­ing field po­si­tions. “They put us un­der pres­sure,” said O’Ma­hony. “You need your set­piece go­ing well. I thought our set­piece was quite good. The scrum was good, but we knew we were go­ing to be in a se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion with their li­ne­out. They’re the best de­fen­sive li­ne­out in the Top 14. They are hugely com­pet­i­tive in Europe. We knew we weren’t go­ing to win all of them but they cer­tainly got us there, def­i­nitely.”

Nor did O’Ma­hony give any cre­dence to the no­tion the travel sched­ule of late, 10 flights en­com­pass­ing three away games in a row in South Africa and France, con­trib­uted to their slug­gish start. “I don’t think so. We cer­tainly can’t blame any of that. You’re up against a very good side as well now. The qual­ity of player they have is in­cred­i­ble, we know that. The dif­fer­ence go­ing back to the Toulon game was we stopped their mo­men­tum-givers and, the first 30 min­utes this time, we failed to do so. You’re go­ing to be on the back foot from the off.”

CJ Stander echoed his cap­tain’s view: “I think we lost the col­li­sions and just shorted our line and they took the ball wide, scored a few good tries. We didn’t give our­selves a chance in the first half. Ev­ery time we had the ball, we turned it over or we went to touch.”

Re­flect­ing on his first Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup cam­paign, Mun­ster coach Jo­hann van Graan said: “Firstly that this is an in­cred­i­ble com­pe­ti­tion. It re­ally tests you. Like I said, the two Le­ices­ter bat­tles, the Rac­ing bat­tle at the U Arena, the Cas­tres game, the quar­ter-fi­nal and the semi-fi­nal, I think what I’ll take out of it is small mo­ments win big games. Un­for­tu­nately over the course of the 80 min­utes we didn’t use all of our small mo­ments.”

“I thought we had a will­ing­ness to play to­day,” added van Graan, “and if we were to­tally out-played and didn’t cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties, I’d be a wor­ried man. I’ve learned an in­cred­i­ble lot about my­self and the coach­ing team, the play­ers, the man­age­ment and the club, and maybe just a word to all those sup­port­ers: we couldn’t ask for any­thing more and the play­ers give their all, but un­for­tu­nately we just came up short.”

‘‘ The dif­fer­ence go­ing back to the Toulon game was we stopped their mo­men­tum-givers and, the first 30 min­utes this time, we failed to do so

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