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'I joked to Rory a few days ago that his time would come and it came sooner than we thought'

Johann van Graan hailed Munster’s matchwinner on a night the province earned a big Pro14 victory.

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

FOR A BRIEF moment, Peter O’Mahony — after producing one final trademark steal on the ground — considered kicking for the corner, but the Munster captain got the nod from Rory Scannell. This was his moment.

At the end of a bitterly disappointing week for the centre following his omission from Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad, he showed no hesitation in taking responsibility for his side, standing up to nail a last-gasp penalty and complete a stunning comeback victory. 

Rory Scannell celebrates after the game Rory Scannell was the matchwinner at Thomond. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With the clock red, O’Mahony somehow forced the turnover just inside the Glasgow half and — with the scoreboard reading 22-24 — Scannell threw a piece of grass up in the air, saw the wind was at his back and promptly nailed a long-range penalty.

He couldn’t have struck it any sweeter, the ball sailing perfectly between the posts, landing just over them and sending Thomond Park into delirium, the celebrations led by the players on the pitch.

It was a truly remarkable conclusion to a game which had threatened to get away from Munster — they were 14 points down with 20 minutes remaining — but Johann van Graan’s side, typified by Scannell, showed character and courage to turn the tide.

The reaction at the end spoke volumes, Scannell swarmed by his team-mates as the southern province secured a crucial Conference A victory at the end of an encouraging five-week block of fixtures.

“We actually had a chat with all the kickers during the week about the distance and having a match-winning moment,” van Graan said afterwards.

“I had a bit of a joke with Rory a few days ago, he put a few long ones in, so I said ‘listen, the time is going to come for one’ and it came sooner than we thought.

“I’ve never been a kicker but I think as a kicker you want those type of kicks. They made the call on the field and what a brilliant kick to win the game.”

It was a particularly sweet moment for Scannell.

“It’s a great moment for him, but more for the team,” the head coach continued.

I don’t know if you guys saw the reaction of the rest of the squad. We’ve worked so hard over the last few weeks to get positive results and we knew we came up against a championship team tonight, and it took 80 minutes to beat them by that kick. It was a great effort by the lads.

“We had a bit of a discussion in the coaching box but Pete and I are very aligned to what we want to do and in those moments in battle, you trust your leadership group and captain. I knew if one of the kickers wanted it they’ll take it. Obviously Rory wanted to kick and knew he’d have the distance and then you back the call and for us luckily he hit it.”

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A fourth home victory of the league campaign sees Munster make ground on Conference A leaders Glasgow and move into third position in the standings ahead of next week’s trip to South Africa to face the Cheetahs.

The hosts had started brightly here, hitting the front early on through James Cronin’s close-range try, but were on the back foot when Glasgow channeled their aggression in a positive fashion, with George Horne scoring a quickfire brace.

Alby Mathewson scores a try Alby Mathewson scored a crucial try to get Munster back in the game. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Dave Rennie’s side scored two sublime backline moves, punishing Munster on the counter-attack, and then tacked on two further tries after the break to create clear daylight between the sides at 10-24.

But Munster, against all odds, weren’t prepared to lie down and a powerful impact from their bench — Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Arno Botha and Ian Keatley all deserve mentions — laid the platform for a stunning fightback.

“We played well in the first 23 minutes and thought we overplayed in the second part of the first half,” van Graan said. “I thought our bench did fantastically well tonight.

This was not a regular game. You saw in the first minute what it meant to both sides, not one of these sides were going to blink. All 30 guys were in there, and that’s the rivalry between Munster and Glasgow.

“They gave us a bloody nose a few weeks ago, and we knew we had to fight back and we were definitely not going to blink tonight. It was a massive game in our calendar and we knew it was coming up after Europe.

“It’s so difficult to get the guys up after two European games and after the Leinster game and after the Ulster game. This five-week block has been massive for us as a group and a lot of guys are leaving tomorrow for Ireland and we’re only seeing them in December again before the next European game.

“It was very important as a group to get through this one and thankfully we did.”

On the injury front, Andrew Conway was a late withdrawal from the starting XV through illness while Sammy Arnold didn’t reappear after going off in the first half for a HIA. 

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Ryan Bailey

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