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Is Munster's humbling Heineken Cup defeat in France amongst their five worst?
Tony McGahan is left shattered by a humbling defeat in the south of France, leaving Munster’s season in shreds. But is the loss amongst the most painful?

SO THAT’S IT then? Munster fans are this morning reflecting on life outside European rugby’s elite for the first time in a generation.

The Reds were on the end of a rout as Toulon ran out comfortable 32-16 in France, spelling the end of the Reds’ European Cup quest at the pool stage.

Donncha O’Callaghan and Ronan O’Gara were both yellow-carded as the Irish province bowed out with an untypical whimper, as Jonny Wilkinson punished almost every infringement by Munster in kicking 22 points, while Christian Loamanu and Paul Sackey helped themselves to tries.

Thomond Park head coach Tony McGahan seemed shell-shocked by the defeat. He said: “I’m absolutely shattered to be out of the Heineken Cup at this point in the term, especially after a very disappointing performance.

“I think the first thing was our discipline. Conceding 13 points with two men off the field and a couple of penalties from scrums certainly added to the scoreline. But I think, most of all, our lack of accuracy in trying to put anything together.” He added:

I thought we were very frantic at times, especially in the first half. We had a bit of a dried up source from our set-piece, so we really needed to make sure that we controlled the ball, played in the right areas of the field and put some pressure on them. But unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.

Munster last failed to reach the quarter-finals in 1998. Was yesterday’s defeat amongst the province’s worst? Here’s a handful to ponder:

1. Cardiff 48 Munster 18

Cardiff Arms Park, October 16, 1996

Rob Howley ran riot with a hat-trick of Cardiff’s eight tries.

2. Toulouse 60 Munster 19

Stade Ernest Wallon, November 2, 1996

The French giants went one better than the Welsh side, running in nine tries. Michel Marfaing claimed a treble.

3. Gloucester 35 Munster 16

Kingsholm, October 12, 2002

This one seems less traumatic when it’s taken in the context of their next meeting: a certain miracle match.

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4. Llanelli 24 Munster 15

Stradey Park, March 31, 2007

This wasn’t behaviour befitting the champions; dumped out at the quarter-final stage in Wales was humbling.

5. Munster 9 Leinster 25

Croke Park, May 2, 2009

This was some day. GAA HQ witnessed the metropolitans turn the tables on their country cousins.