FOR A LONG time in this match it looked as though the story had been written – a solid but unspectacular Munster win that does little for their quarter-final aspirations.
Thomond Park, however, is the spot for late drama and frantic rewrites.
Munster led 6-0 at half-time and must have trudged in at the break wondering how they were not at least one try and a double-figure lead to the good.
Even after Conor Murray dived over under the posts, there was little buzz around the ground over the possibility of recording a bonus point win.
With Saracens getting their second win in succession, an extra point for the fourth try was already an imperative.
Somehow, within the space of nine crazy minutes at the end of the match, Munster had pummelled Edinburgh into submission and walked away with five points.
Murray, Peter O’Mahony and Sean Dougall scored three of the four tries (the clincher coming from Damien Varley) but the impact of the old-guard should not be overlooked.
POC and DOC
Donncha O’Callaghan was back in the starting line-up after missing the trip to France last weekend. Playing at lock to allow Donnacha Ryan to continue at six, O’Callaghan was at his bristling best.
He won his team crucial scrums and penalties and provided a reliable lineout option all afternoon.
Paul O’Connell was good for 40 minutes against Racing Metro last week. He was untouchable for 60 minutes today and did more than enough to set his side on the road to victory.
Two lineout steals in the first-half delivered crucial attacking ball but disrupted Edinburgh’s pack so much that they had a 30-second conference with hooker Ross Ford every time he had a throw to make.
O’Connell even showed up on the right wing in one Munster attack and only a gazelle-like run and try will prevent most from giving his performance the perfect ’10′.
Doug Howlett also stepped up for the thirtysomethings and was terrific in the air and once again a major threat on his wing.
Munster coach Rob Penney admitted to TheScore.ie after the match that his side was only on the upward curve from the inevitable “pit” that comes with changing a playing mindset.
His side were more than eager to throw the ball about and run themselves out of, or into, trouble as they did at Ravenhill earlier in the season and against Racing last week.
They reverted back to the Munster way of battering ram rugby and rolling mauls from secured lineout ball. Young players like Dougall and O’Mahony have perhaps realised that there is a time for the expansive game and a time to make space by doling out bruises.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Penney remarked.
After witnessing his first European miracle-job at Thomond Park, the Kiwi coach may be on to something.