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'Big games get won by special moments' - Van Graan hails Haley's solo score

The Munster fullback produced a brilliant solo score to help his side secure a Pro14 final spot.

Mike Haley scored an excellent second-half try for Munster.
Mike Haley scored an excellent second-half try for Munster.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MUNSTER BOSS JOHANN van Graan hailed his team’s composure and a “special” try by Mike Haley after they edged past Connacht in Thomond Park to secure a place in the Guinness Pro14 final. 

The southern province had trailed 10-7 at the break but finally moved into the lead for the first time coming towards the final quarter as fullback Haley claimed a high ball, broke a tackle, then calmly chipped over the last defender with his left foot, regathering the ball on the bounce to score.

“Mikey has had a very consistent season,” said van Graan after his side’s 20-17 win. “It’s great for him that he can sign a [two-year] contract and then score a try like that. Really happy for him.

“On a serious note, I thought he was excellent tonight. He really attacked from behind and big games get won by special moments and that was certainly a big moment. It was one of the best individual tries you’ll see all season.”

A penalty from second-half replacement Joey Carbery sealed the win for Munster after what was an edgy, ferocious contest in Thomond Park.

Munster are now back in the Pro14 final for the first time since 2017 and will have a chance to end their 10-year wait for a trophy later this month.

While their performance was far from perfect, van Graan was pleased with how Munster turned the game around, while he was also happy with the bench impact of Carbery, Damian de Allende, Kevin O’Byrne and Jean Kleyn after introducing them early in the second half.

“Handle the pressure,” said van Graan when asked what his team had done well to win.

“We didn’t start the game well, we got pinged into our own 22, that charge down, they had the scrum and scored straight away. Connacht had a really good start. I think our composure to get back into it, we could have gone 10-10 at half time when we missed that kick.

“At half time there was good clarity from everybody, we said we weren’t going to go into our shells and I think we started the second half really well. The scrum went very well tonight, all credit to Connacht for putting our lineout under pressure.

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“I knew that by selecting this team, the bench is very important. I felt our bench… on 52 or 53 minutes, I made four changes and I think that made a big difference to give us renewed energy.

“If you look where we finished the game, in their 22, literally five metres out, I think we managed that really well. A lot of growth by the team and it wasn’t our best performance by a long way, but it was enough to get us into a final.”

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Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Thomond Park

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