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'Bittersweet' feeling for Foley as Munster's European season ends

The Munster head coach praised the ‘good character’ of his side during the win over Sale.

BJ Botha congratulates Keith Earls on his second-half try.
BJ Botha congratulates Keith Earls on his second-half try.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

ANTHONY FOLEY ADMITTED to mixed feelings after watching his Munster side scorch nine tries past Sale Sharks during a 65-10 win at Thomond Park.

While the southern province were busy dismantling Steve Diamond’s side, Saracens were losing to Clermont in the other Champions Cup Pool 1 fixture in France. Despite their 18-6 defeat, the English side move into the quarter-finals of Europe.

“It’s very bittersweet with Saracens going through on 17 points and you’re left kicking yourself about what happened here in the Clermont game,” said Foley in reference to Munster’s 16-9 loss at home to the French giants back in December.

Four points in that encounter would have meant Munster moving into the knock-out stages of the Champions Cup.

You can’t lose at home and hope to qualify, particularly with the calibre of teams that are in your group,” said Foley. “It’s very hard to go away and win twice away from home in the group we had this year.”

However, Foley did take pride in the fact that his players had won so convincingly a week after being on the end of a heavy defeat away to Saracens, one that ensured today’s game was nothing more than a dead rubber.

“We’ve had a very tough week, mentally more than physically within the group in terms of where we are and where we thought we were,” admitted Foley post-match at Thomond Park.

“When you come out of that, you come out stronger because we’ve all stuck together and made sure that we gave our answer today and played right until the 80th minute.

“Fellas did that for the people that matter to them and they wanted to show that the sacrifices they put in week in, week out are not all for nil.”

Munster players await the decision of the TMO Munster wait on one of the many TMO decisions against Sale. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Foley felt Munster’s “good character” in defending their tryline late in the first half was what won them this game, ensuring as it did a 13-10 half-time lead and allowing Munster to go on to dominate after the break.

“I said at half time to the boys that we were in a good contest,” explained Foley.

“I thought it was a good physical contest out there and we didn’t shirk from that in the first half in particular, when we were playing into the elements out there. At one stage, they were camped on our line and the boys kept turning up.

I know we suffered the yellow card [to Andrew Conway], and again we upped the ante during that period and held them off. We reaped the rewards of that in the last 20 minutes.”

The likes of Simon Zebo, Tommy O’Donnell, James Cronin and Keith Earls did their international chances no harm with strong individual performances ahead of the Six Nations, with Foley praising Earls for his athletic ability.

However, the Munster head coach insisted that his players had been purely focused on Munster this week.

“I think nobody was thinking about international rugby,” said Foley. “We’ve left a lot of people down over the last period of time and we wanted to let people have a good weekend, so they could go to work tomorrow with a smile on their face.”

‘It was one of those days when we had license to spread the ball’ — Zebo

5 talking points after Anthony Foley’s Munster hammer Sale

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Murray Kinsella

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