Sean McMahon reporting from Thomond Park
JJ Hanrahan is revelling in his superb form which has seen him become a vital figure for Munster at the business end of the season.
The Castleisland RFC club man was the hero for Munster as they snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in their last-gasp quarter-final victory over Benetton at Thomond Park on Saturday.
His sublime 50m penalty put Munster two points in front as they just about closed out the final few minutes of the game as the Italian side suffered two failed drop goal attempts.
Those nine points from the tee proved crucial on Saturday but he also impressed against the same opposition in northern Italy just a few weeks ago when he kicked 17 points en route to an impressive away win.
Excellent cameo appearances against Saracens and Connacht followed and Hanrahan is pleased to be playing so well at such a crucial point in the season.
“Yeah, it’s nice to be hitting a bit of form at this stage of the year definitely,” Hanrahan told the media after Munster secured a meeting with Leinster in two weeks. “It’s the business end and it’s when you want to be on top of the ground.
“Trying to give this man [Johann van Graan] as many headaches as possible! It’s nice, yeah. Definitely good to hit a bit of form.”
Munster were staring down the barrel of a significant defeat but Hanrahan was adamant that he and his teammates were remaining calm in those final 10 minutes where his long-range penalty ultimately secured the victory.
“No, we were pretty calm, we knew with 10 minutes left we were one point down. We just had a conversation, we were like, ‘look, if we’re in our red zone, we have to exit, we know that, let’s not be stupid and once we get the ball back in our hands, then keep it.’ We know that with the potential to give away penalties we could have a crack at goal or go to the corner if we need to. We had a nice little plan there and look, it worked out.”
This was Benetton’s first time to reach the PRO14 playoffs and Hanrahan was keen to heap praise on Kieran Crowley’s side who put Munster to the pin of their collar throughout the 80 minutes.
“We knew what they brought from playing them over there. I think Ireland seems to be a good luck spot for them at the moment because the last two times they played they had draws in Ireland and they were very close to that again today. So, I think all credit to Benetton and how hard they came. They made such a hard game of it.”