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'I'm incredibly proud of the group, you don't just come here and win'

Munster boss Johann van Graan hailed his side for an 80-minute performance in Castres.

Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, and Shane Daly.
Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, and Shane Daly.

MUNSTER HEAD COACH Johann van Graan hailed his side for playing right until the death after a late Gavin Coombes try saw the province squeeze to a 16-13 win against Castres in France.

Munster’s last-gasp victory means they have qualified for the Champions Cup round-of-16 and they can make it four wins from four in the pool stages by beating Wasps at Thomond Park next weekend.

Van Graan’s men struck late to seal their win in Castres, with number eight Coombes dotting down with 78 minutes on the clock.

“It was a tough game, two teams having a go at each other – a typical Munster versus Castres game,” said the Munster boss post-match.

“I’m incredibly proud of the group, you don’t just come here and win. We spoke about an 80-minute performance the whole week and we certainly got that. Everybody gave it their all and we’re very happy with the four points.”

While it was another typically dramatic Munster win, they will likely reflect that things could have been a little more comfortable if they had taken a number of chances earlier in the game.

Van Graan was keen to credit an impressive Castres performance as well as recognising that his team could have made their own night less stressful.

“We had one or two uncharacteristic errors in the lineout five yards away [from the Castres tryline], we had one in the first half and one in the second half,” said van Graan.

“You have to give credit to Castres’ lineout as well and they took a chance. Not a lot of teams contest five yards away, they took a chance and did.

johann-van-graan-during-the-warm-up Van Graan before kick-off in Castres. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“The one that mattered, we finished. I thought we had some very good attacking passages. One or two balls went to ground in the 22 but I thought from a performance point of view, it was some really good stuff.”

Coombes proved to be the match-winner as his importance for Munster continues to grow, with van Graan hailing the 24-year-old’s influence.

“Massive. Making his Irish debut in the summer, obviously he was out for quite a bit with him staying behind in South Africa plus coming back into Ireland.

“It took him that one game to hit his straps, but I thought he was phenomenal again tonight. He is a massive part of our group.

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“I want to stress again, for him and the whole group, we knew coming to Castres was going to be an 80-minute performance. We knew from the other sides that came here and lost right at the death, so all credit to the Coombesy and the whole group.”

It all tees Munster up nicely for next Sunday’s meeting with Wasps in Limerick, where a win would see van Graan’s side advance into the knock-out stages as one of the highest-ranked clubs.

That could mean a home quarter-final and home country semi-final if Munster advance deep into the competition.

“Obviously we only had our focus on Castres tonight, really good result for us,” said van Graan. “We are three from three in Europe. We play next Sunday which gives us a nine-day turnaround.

“We will regroup, look at our resources, obviously if you are good enough to go further, home advantage is crucial.

“We have put ourselves in a really, really good space in terms of winning three out three. So, it’s a massive game for us against Wasps next Sunday.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella  / Reports from Stade Pierre Fabre

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