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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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'Game-changing' Conway try and late calm thrills Van Graan

The South African has been left frustrated by opening round draws in his previous seasons.

Dan Lydiate with one of his 23 tackles.
Dan Lydiate with one of his 23 tackles.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THE GAIN BROUGHT by James Cronin’s last-gasp try is not one point, but three from Johann van Graan’s point of view.

His first season of European rugby began, while he was still working for the Springboks, with a 17-17 draw away to Castres.

Last season, the two-time champions battled out a ferocious 10-10 deadlock in Exeter. On both occasion they wound up topping the pool and ultimately reaching the semi-final stage.

A much tougher pool faces the southern province this season, but against the weakest side of the four they – eventually – succeeded in forcing the full five-pointer.

“As a group we said: we started the Champions Cup the last two years with draws away from home which were very good performances,” said Van Graan.

“We said we would like to get a win. And I’m very glad to come away with five points in a very difficult game. A lot of people didn’t give them a chance, but they kept going in a very physical game of rugby.”

Munster dominated the majority of those collisions, yet it was when they tried to move the ball around Ospreys that they really looked a cut above. The fruits of that were borne out in two thrilling second-half minutes that put the result beyond the hosts.

“We were pretty calm at half-time. We identified some areas of space. They started the second half pretty well. We had a nice set-play, the forwards sending Tommy (O’Donnell) down the blindside with Earlsie finishing.

“I think the game-changer was the try from the kick-off. We fielded it, kicked long, got that turnover. Jeremy (Loughman) made that lovely left-to-right pass to Andrew (Conway), which he scored.

At 25-6 we knew we needed to get one more, but Ospreys said all week that they were going to fight for this one. At 25-13 there was two minutes to go, a big poach, won another penalty and went to the corner. All credit to the players who remained calm. It doesn’t matter when you score your tries as long as you get four.”

Van Graan mentioned that he went to his opposite number Allen Clarke to commend him on the difficulty the home side imposed on their guests.

With resources pinched on all sides for the Dungannon man, the intensity of the resistance brought by his players shows there is still progress he can make despite a horror 1-6 start to the season.

The go-to cliche when a coach is on a losing run is that he has lost the dressing room. It’s tough to make that argument when Clarke’s side attempted over 200 tackles. 45 of completed by influential back rows Dan Lydiate and Olly Cracknell.

“I thought they were exceptional and those are the victories at the moment, the small wins that you’ve got to identify and you can build a game of rugby on that,” said Clarke. who knows it doesn’t get easier with Saracens next up.

cj-stander-tackled-by-olly-cracknell-and-bradley-davies Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“You can build a team on that and if you don’t have effort you don’t have anything. We have effort and we’ve had it every week. What we need to improve is our quality, our execution and where we are at the moment as a group and the players available and those who are not available.”

He added: “We know the quality that’s missing and we know where we are as a club. What happened tonight will hold us in good stead for the future.”

“I know from outside looking in people might question the mood in the camp is. There’s disappointment in the camp, there’s determination but morale, you wouldn’t think we’re in the position that we are if you looked at the morale.”

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About the author:

Sean Farrell  / Reports from The Liberty Stadium

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