WITH TRIES FOR Keith Earls, Casey Laulala and Simon Zebo, Munster’s backline showed a clinical edge during their 47-23 Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Toulouse yesterday, something that has been missing on occasion this season.
Conor Murray at scrum-half was at his best, striding calmly from ruck to ruck and delivering crisp passes out in front of receivers, allowing them to make consistent gains. The 24-year-old carried the ball 10 times himself, testing Toulouse’s fringe defence.
Following the Thomond Park encounter, Murray laid all of the credit for those impressions on the Munster forwards, whose immense technical and mental strength allowed them to excel against a far heavier pack.
“Absolutely, I’ve got to give a special mention to the pack,” said Murray. “They made it a really enjoyable day. There was ball on a plate there for me and it allowed us to play really quickly and kept the tempo in our game.”
Never more so than in the opening minutes, when a blitz of Munster attack took them through 19 phases and ended with Earls scampering over in the right corner. The hard work of his forwards was essential, and Murray believes that 5th minute try was crucial for maintaining the electric atmosphere inside the stadium.
That’s something I was asked about during the week, ‘is Thomond Park going to be really special?’ The crowd was obviously there, but it was important that we gave them something to shout about early on and that try lended itself to that.
“19 phases, and as we got closer on every phase you could heard the voices of the crowd on your back, sensing something and wanting a score. It would be quite interesting to hear what the Toulouse players’ reaction would be to that, I’m sure it’s an intimidating place to play when we’re playing well.”
Munster have showed flashes of their best form through the current season, as well as 2012/13, but this was the most complete 80-minute performance they have delivered thus far.
What made the difference?
“A thought during the week was that Toulouse are never dead. Looking at their season so far they have come from behind in the 80th minute, or into stoppage time, and rescued a few wins from that.
“We knew they were never going to go away and it was really important that we counter-acted their scores with scores of our own and not try to put it up the jumper or play down there.”
I think the game plan, and getting results from that plan, has been up and down all year, but today it clicked.”
Munster will enjoy putting the feet up and watching the semi-final between Toulon and Leinster later today [KO 4.30pm Irish time], eager to find out who they will face in the next round of European action.
“We’re in a good place but we’re not going to get carried away with ourselves,” says Murray. “That was a really tough game out there and we had to keep playing right until the 80th minute.
“It’s very satisfying as a group and a lot of things clicked for us today. We figured a lot of things out and got through plays that we wanted to. It clicked quite well. It’s nice to be able to watch the game knowing that you’re already in the semi-final.”