Sean McMahon reporting from Thomond Park.
For the 25,000 who packed into Thomond Park on Saturday night hoping to see some of Munster’s new expansive style of play, their hopes were quickly dashed as monsoon conditions quickly descended on the famous Limerick venue.
Due to the deteriorating weather conditions, the second-half could only be described as a slugfest as both sides opted to keep the ball in the narrow channels with handling proving incredibly difficult.
For the English champions who won the toss, they decided to play into the wind in the first half knowing that the gale and rain would only get worse as the match progressed – and so it proved.
Munster couldn’t extend their 10-3 halftime advantage but their defence must be credited with keeping the reigning European and English champions tryless throughout the 80+ minutes.
For Munster captain Peter O’Mahony, he describes the game as one where you don’t even want the ball.
“It was very difficult,” O’Mahony said after the game.
“They’re the kind of the nights you almost don’t want to have the ball. It’s almost a liability it’s that bad. The score of the second half probably says it all. It was a game of defences. We certainly have plenty to work on but look, there was a lot of positives to take.
“I thought the first half was really good. We played some really good rugby. Probably one of our best defensive displays in the first half. Plenty of positives but plenty of work-ons as well.”
For head coach Johann van Graan, he knows his side will have to pull off one big away win if they are to progress into the knockout stages of this competition.
The first opportunity to do that will be next weekend when Munster take on Saracens once again at Allianz Park and with Mark McCall revealing that many of his rested England international will return from that game, it won’t be an easy task.
“We can’t control whatever selection any team that ever plays against us do,” van Graan said.
“They’ve got to make their calls. If certain teams rest players then certain people just assume that it’s their B team. They’re the European and the Premiership champions and you’ve got to look at the players who played in that team tonight. What people don’t see is our guys fighting for every single inch. If you look at some of the injuries that we’ve got in our positions, we are thin in certain areas but we just got to go out there and play.
“All the respect to the 23 guys that went out there to battle tonight, I thought they battled for virtually what was 81/82 minutes against the European champions at home and we got a win against Saracens at home.”
Van Graan continued:
“Every single game we want to win so it will be a massive challenge to go and challenge them there.
“What you learn through the history of Europe is you’ve got to try and pick up points on the road, whether it be a win or a bonus point.
“I haven’t even thought about next week yet. We’ll take stock of what happened and where we’re at and look at our squad, look at the context of our pool and then start again tomorrow morning.”