What a difference three months make
It was a shock then, but today’s match felt light years removed from the meeting these sides played out in Murrayfield on October 12.
It was a result that shook Rob Penney into publicly lambasting his team in the aftermath and that move has apparently paid dividends with 11 wins from the 12 games since.
Of course, Edinburgh have since proved to be a better side than we viewed them on that day and, with nothing to play for, were perhaps a cut below their usual intensity as the second half wore on. Nevertheless, Munster displayed calm assurance when in possession and, even before Edinburgh were reduced to 14 men, the back-line were making decisive breaks in the black defence.
Hosting quarter-final can offer more than just home advantage
It’s been a sad statement on the lack of disposable income and rugby optimism around Limerick, but empty seats have been a feature of even the biggest games at Thomond Park over the last few years.
The news that the venue was a 26,500 sell-out with the prospect of a home quarter-final to come was a massive lift to all involved on and off the pitch in Munster Rugby and that kind of positive atmosphere is sure to offer a great big bienvenue to Guy Noves and Toulouse when the big day comes in April.
Big calls, big character
It was fitting that Peter O’Mahony should ground the decisive fourth try. The young captain willingly took the hopes of a province onto his own shoulders today and was single-minded in his intent to get early tries on the board.
His first-half decisions to pass up easily kickable opportunities when the score was just 5 – 3 was a telling moment in the game. Munster may have ended the day on six tries, but when O’Mahony’s gamble paid off, a massive amount of pressure was suddenly lifted from the hosts.
Keatley or Hanrahan? Try both
When JJ Hanrahan appeared off the bench in the second half even the public announcer presumed it was to replace Keatley who had just fluffed a grubber kick. Instead James Downey was called ashore and Keatley took up a place in the centre.
At the time Munster were still one try short of a bonus so it was quite a brave switch from Penney, but the addition of a second 10 did indeed give Munster greater attacking options when on the front foot.
Munster back-line gets the job done
By the time Wayne Barnes blew the final whistle, Munster had thoroughly demoralised their guests. Once the technically-excellent pack had batted Edinburgh back in the second half the men behind the scrum sniffed their chance and duly took it.
Four of the six tries arrived from backs today and Munster finish the pool stages on 19. Of the teams in the knock-out stages only Saracens – who clocked up 11 against Connacht yesterday – have managed more. Not bad for a side who are constantly said to be too lateral in attack.