Neither team could qualify for the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup, and the scoreboard at half-time reflected their dampened spirits. It was still 0-0 at the break, but it wasn’t for want of determination by either team.
Munster had three near misses in the first half – the ball was held up over the line twice, and referee Peter Allan ruled a forward pass at their third attempt, to stop Keith Earls scoring in the corner.
The game picked up a little bit more tempo in the second half, but it wasn’t until the final 12 minutes of the game, when Sailosi Tagicakibau scored London Irish’s second try to go 14-7, that Munster sparked into life. Only Leicester have beaten Munster at home in the Heineken Cup, and the home side were not about to relinquish their impressive home record after last week’s humiliating defeat away to Toulon.
Tony McGahan praised his side for having the determination to pick up the tempo at the end of the game, and admitted that the bench brought some tempo to their performance. “Full credit to the players for putting in a performance over 80 minutes. To pick up in the last 15 minutes takes real spirit and belief,” he said.
“We were playing for our lives out there,” added McGahan. “We have a great home record and we were not ready to give that up. Our reserves also gave us a little bit of go forward towards the end of the game.”
McGahan’s opposite number, Toby Booth, saw promise in London Irish’s performance despite the loss. “To be in the contest for as long as we were was outstanding,” he said.
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“Our defence especially was outstanding, and the game was essentially a dead rubber, so I was pleased with the intensity and passion we played with.”
London Irish will go back to the Premiership in three weeks looking to re-launch their bid to reach the top four, while Munster will fill one of the remaining Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final spots.