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Erasmus hails Munster's heart to edge Racing battle

“The guys’ hearts were really big today and the technique was really sound.”

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

WITH JOHANN VAN Graan in Limerick, Rassie Erasmus might just pass on the chance to analyse Munster’s Champions Cup win over Racing.

On a night when Storm Brian set flagpoles shaking and the cloth they bore pinned in a different direction every time you cared to look up, it was always going to be a game to be decided by who could dig deepest.

“I’m just glad we won, man,” Erasmus said twice when asked his opinion on potentially match-turning moments.

“It’s tough to get the ball wider than your fly-half. With (Dan) Carter playing in their team, even they struggled to do it.

“It was a tough game to control tactically. It was more about ‘who’s got the most guts out there?’

“It definitely wasn’t perfect. In the conditions it might have been perfect, but you can’t go through this game and analyse anything because it was disrupted play.”

“I thought it was really gutsy defence,” added the South African. “I think beating them by seven points, it’s probably a fair reflection on the game, but I’m under no illusion that they could have drawn the game.”

Erasmus’ praise for the work and ‘guts’ of his side comes to the fore when he was asked specifically about the maul defence to withstand bouts of second-half pressure from a visiting pack which had just been reinvigorated by an all-new front row.

“They are big guys and they play for 60 minutes then they put on more guys who are 150 kilos and size-wise they are (huge).

I thought the guys’ hearts were really big today and the technique was really sound. We were lower than them. It could have easily gone against us, but the guys were tight and the guys were really fighting for the badge and you can’t ask more.

“I don’t think it was a tactical game in any way. It was a gutsy, gritty game.”

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Of course, there’s always room for some analysis, and with a total of eight penalties against Munster by full time — almost all of them in the second half — Erasmus agrees that a return to a more characteristic level of discipline played a big role in deadlocking the tie when the Top 14 side were dominating possession and territory.

“We had two weeks where we conceded 11 and 14 (penalties against Leinster and Castres respectively) and you can’t win games like that and I thought the boys took it to heart.

“You can give penalties away out of desperation and wanting to help the team, but the last two weeks we gave stupid penalties away. Today our penalty count was low and that was one of the reasons we were in this game.”

Rassie Erasmus Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

As for the reason they won, a Conor Murray charge-down on 61 minutes can’t be chalked down as a freak occurrence either. Murray along with Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Billy Holland worked hard to pressure Maxime Machenaud and Dan Carter’s first half kicks. In the dressing room at half time they could see every reason to persist with their efforts.

“At half time, the boys in the changing room said: ‘Listen, we’re going to score from a charge-down.’ That’s exactly what the guys said.

“We had been so close in the first half, to charging the ball down every single time. We were just missing by our finger tips. The actual call on defence was that we were going to score with a charge-down. And there they went with a charge-down. Really bizarre.”

When Van Graan gets a look back at the tape, he’ll see an awful lot to like about Munster’s substance. There’ll be plenty of time to admire the style.

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