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'It's really hard to break Munster at home': Settling for a point doesn't come easy for O'Gara

With the game well in the balance on the hour, O’Gara was gutted to miss out on a win in Thomond Park.

Dan Carter and Ronan O'Gara pre-match in Thomond
Dan Carter and Ronan O'Gara pre-match in Thomond
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE CONFLICT IN Ronan O’Gara is etched on his face, but it’s not a conflict of loyalty.

He will always be a part of the Munster lore and matches like this, when he comes to Thomond Park, will always hold a special significance.

Yet sitting in his striped blue and white retro rugby jumper, he doesn’t look like a man pining for his spiritual home. Certainly not a man who’s happy Munster are still in the mix to win Champions Cup pool 4. Nor should he, when he’s fully invested in building this Racing team.

The conflict is between whether he can be happy with a losing bonus point, or gutted about slipping to a loss when the match had been deadlocked for an hour.

“No,” was the definitive succinct reply when asked if he was happy with the single point return. He paused to take in a breath and continued:

With 10 minutes to go I’d bite your hand off for a point, but after 60 I thought the game was there to be won and the first score – even if it was three points – was going to be a big score, but we just didn’t mentally break them. It’s really hard to break Munster at home.”

O’Gara calls the game-changing try ‘soft’, but pulls back from attaching any blame to Maxime Machenaud – ‘It happens.’ Lamenting an early knock that kept Dan Carter from operating at full capacity, he is proud that his squad didn’t contribute to that tired old French rugby stereotype of a team who didn’t fancy the challenge on a stormy night away from home.

“It’s great that our boys had the character to come back. 14-0 down, it could have been a different picture. And you might say I’m a lunatic, but I think we could have easily got a draw; the final play of the game there’s a blatant push in the back that goes unpunished.

“I don’t think we’d have been undeserving of a draw. But it’s why Munster are so good in this competition. So few teams get out of here with anything like a win.”

So when Racing’s three straight defeats in the Top 14 (before beating Leicester last weekend) are taken into account, O’Gara almost talks himself around to being content with a losing bonus.

“Not many teams get a losing bonus point here. I know it’s not the Munster of old. I think if you stand up to Munster’s physicality you’ve a chance. But tonight was hard because conditions were difficult to put two or three passes together.

“They’re good at the high ball, they’ve an edge on a lot of teams on that… to finish the game strongly shows great character. And sometimes that’s what adversity is about, showing character.

Leone Nakarawa takes a moment to himself after the game Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“We’re close, yet we’re far away. We need to get more stability, build our base and get more consistent performances.

“We were coming here to win, which might sound crazy considering our form, but we have big game players and I don’t think we were that far off the pace.

“We had them under pressure, we just couldn’t get a killer blow to get over the line. One score ahead of these guys, it would have been a different mentality. That’s what rugby is and we need to get that into our group more and more.”

A little bit of Munster attitude goes a long way.

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