It’s all about Munster

Who writes these guys’ scripts? Honestly, this team got their hides whupped by Treviso and Glasgow in their last two away trips, but taught the champions of England a lesson in how to win when it mattered. We have berated some of our good friends in the mainstream media in the past for Munster-obsession, but you can see why they are so addictive – they are an incredible story.

Lulling all of Europe into a false sense of security by playing rubbish wide-wide guff all season, only to then produce a most memorable performance from when it matters – that’s the embodiment of the crazy old tournament that is the Heineken Cup laid bare.  It’s surely the only tournament where you can play poorly for much of the season and still win the biggest prize of all, but only so long as you peak at the right times.  Michael Cheika spoke of almost having to manufacture dips in the season to ensure his team peaked for the Cup matches, and even then it didn’t go very smoothly.  History has written that Leinster won the cup in 2009, but anyone who remembers much of how that season unfolded wil recall they played terribly for vast swathes of it.

Back to Munster’s performance.  And boy was it a performance. They started rather tentatively in the first 30 minutes, but as it became clear Quins had very little to threaten them, Munster stepped on the pedal, controlled territory and bossed the game. Ronan O’Gara had acres of space to play territory and Quins basically had no answer, looking anaemic in attack and walking into choke tackles and a breakdown area dominated by dervishes in red.   Quins couldn’t get anything going, and any time they threatened to, they lost the ball.

We said before the game that to win this game would require Munster’s best performance in Europe yet, but all it required was an aggressive and manic pack, accurate kicking from the halves and Superman Paul O’Connell being Paul O’Connell Superman. O’Connell played himself onto the Lions tour, quite possibly as captain, and some of the Quins players fell down the pecking order.  Peter O’Mahony looked like the player he has threatened to become on occasions, and Tommy O’Donnell – little boy lost this time last year – was a revelation.

No-one saw this one coming, least of all Quins (and, erm, ourselves), and the casual attitude from Conor O’Shea’s men was a bit surprising to say the least – they seemed stunned by an archetypal Munster performance, the best since .. what, Clermont at home a few years ago? Or maybe Quins just aren’t all that – they limped out of last year’s Heineken Cup to an average Toulouse side, losing to Connacht to allow the French side to slip through, although they did win the Premiership through the playoffs (admittedly, beating the Saints along the way, which kind of doesn’t count).

Harlequins have historically under-achieved relative to the big West Country and East Midlands teams – even Bum Face’s crew of the early 1990s haven’t the silverware this bunch have (albeit there were less competitions in the 1990s). There has been much talk of them being ‘fast learners’, and they would apply the painful lessons of last season, but maybe this is just Harlequins’ glass ceiling. They certainly didn’t look like English champions or potential European champions, and had little idea of how to play a cup game in the trenches.

But that’s all by the by.  Full credit to Munster, let’s hope we see many more performances like that, not least in Montpellier in three weeks, for they’ll need at least this to avoid a mashing from the best team in Europe, although the way they continue to defy the odds, perhaps they won’t. One thing is for sure, they have the mental in spades, and Clermont have struggled with Irish sides in the past.  And they’ve one other thing: Paul O’Connell.

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60 Comments

  1. Leinster68

     /  April 8, 2013

    A great performance from Munster and well worth their win yesterday, by far the better team. You’d have to ask real questions of Conor O’Shea after that, Quins looked surprised by Munster and yet how else were Munster going to play? I said to a Munster mate on Saturday night that Rob Penney might as well go play 18 holes of golf on Sunday for all the influence he’ll have.

    POC a certainty for the tour and you can be sure that the two teams ASM did not want in a semi-final was either Leinster of Munster. Having dispatched us in the pools they’d have prayed for Quins…despite POC’s fantastic post-match mind games.

  2. jojo

     /  April 8, 2013

    O’Donnell played brilliantly, his work rate and the ferocity of his hits were unreal.

  3. Ben M

     /  April 8, 2013

    Yes Munster continue to confound the media and fans alike with a bloody minded refusal to fade away. A lot of comment on how it was traditional Munster style of play but I think it was more about traditional Munster state of mind.

    O’Mahony is developing into a fine player and when the time comes for POC to hang up the boots I think the 23 year old (yes only 23) is the man do it.

  4. I think Penney deserves a lot more credit then people are saying, his tactics were spot on.

    This was still his game plan just the main difference was his centres for one of the first times this season looked like an actual partnership. They made ground and offloaded and made it a lot easier for the forwards to make ground.

    Ground hardening and the dry ball also helps the team a lot.

    The return of Poc and absolute supremacy of POC in the lineout.

    Anyone know why Quinns didn’t pressure Rog more?

    • Agree on all counts. This was Penney’s best game for Munster. They didn’t go wide-wide, but it wasn’t 10-man rugby either. As Ben said above, it was more the mentality (thou shalt not pass!) that was old-school. The centres looked totally transformed from their usual level. I got the impression the players around Laulala were reading his intentions a lot better; up until now he’s looked like he’s straight off the bus and hasn’t been introduced to his teammates yet.

      Quins were very passive alright. For all O’Shea’s talk about not underestimating Munster, I think they felt they would canter to victory.

      • Exactly Quinns aren’t a team of stars, they were always an extremely well coached and well drilled team so O shea defiantly got it wrong this time.

        • Leinster68

           /  April 8, 2013

          If it gets into players heads that they are going to win it’s hard to respond when things start to unravel. Having said that I was amazed at how naive Quins were. The sight of Quins trying to run the ball out of their deadball area after the ball had bounced around a few time smacked of rabbits and headlights. The only downside to all this is that it will be another “example” for McCafferty and his mates to argue about Irish teams “cherry picking” matches.

          • To be fair Munster are clearly Munsters 3rd best province, they went to the home of the English champions, who rested more players than Munster last weekend and still won, time the English look at their own lot and not complain about Irish advantages.

          • I meant Irish province!

          • Leinster68

             /  April 8, 2013

            Listen I agree 100%, aside from Leicester we’ve seen Sky hyped Premiership teams come into HEC matches talking the talk and getting whooped by Irish teams when the heat is really on. But it’s not like McCafferty and his lot care about facts…..it also raises the old National question and but that’s for another day. As I said above ASM would so much have preferred Quins for all the reasons that posters have outlined.

      • Agree with everything here. Don’t understand people saying it was old-school Munster – there was clearly more depth and cleverness and flexibility to this game than was the case in the past. Early in the season the players seemed to be interpreting Penney’s plan as, one player passed it to the right, therefore we all must follow! In this game they showed the ability to think on their feet and adapt to the situation. A shame they couldn’t finish any of their reasonable chances for tries, but still a fantastic performance – all the more fantastic for its unexpectedness.

      • jojo

         /  April 8, 2013

        completely agree re Lualala, i had felt that he was gettin his hands free and never having any options for offloads in past, but people were anticipating him a lot more v quins. both centres had a great game

  5. Leinsterlion

     /  April 8, 2013

    The value of a true openside shown again. Quins with the lumbering overrated 6 playing 7 had no answer to Munsters ground game. The way the breakdown is reffed in England and in the HC was a big factor in this game. Munster raped quins all day and they had no answer for it. Robshaw was schooled by TOD and was largely anonymous for the 80 mins.
    O’Connell played himself onto the Lions, probably starting, if he keeps this level of play up(no reason why he shouldnt).
    POM played the best 25-30 mins of pure intensity Ive seen from him.Other then that spell after the half and his lineout work he was the same ordinary player he has always been.
    TOD was the best back row on the park imo, slowing down ball, hitting everything, an absolute gem of a player. He has leaped every openside option in Ireland imo, Henrys season has stalled, Ryan is injured constantly, Jennings is ignored, Jordi Murphy hasnt nailed down a starting berth. TOD to start at 7 in the summer(and beyond) is a must. POM deserves the chance to fight for a place at 6 during the summer also based on his spurt of industry after the half.
    Familiar problems were also to the fore, scrum was ropey throughout the match and Archers only contribution was to stick it in reverse when he came on.
    O’Gara can only play one type of game, you wont beat Clermont kicking for the corners.
    Downey had a his best game in red, Lualala also was solid. Zebo, back from injury wont make the Lions, hasnt done enough.
    An intense if not very skilled or fast paced attacking game, a stereotypical(I mean that as a compliment) Munster HC special. They asked questions of Quins and Quins couldn’t answer them, they froze, just like England in Cardiff.
    Munster have to do the same(im guessing Penny ball is now shelved with POC back in the harness) to Clermont and see id they have the mental and physical strength the Quins didnt.

    • Bushmills

       /  April 9, 2013

      Can’t agree more on the need for proper opensides. As if the Tipuric/Warburton examples weren’t clear enough in the 6N, not to mention the eternal adulation of McCaw & Pocock, TOD produced a stunning display of the all round skills and speed of thought required to facilitate your own team’s gameplan, as well as interrupt the opposition’s.

      I thought Matt Williams article in the IT the other week was excellent, linking the lack of Irish opensides with the refusal to participate in the Sevens circuit. Wales are already bringing thru the next generation with their brilliant run to the final in Hong Kong, and we are relying on injuries to allow our talented youngsters like Hanrahan, Jordi Murphy, Olding, et al to get some game time.

      When will the penny drop at the IRFU? Maybe if Sevens got into the Olympic Games, that might be the wake up call? Nah, that will never happen…

      • Leinsterlion

         /  April 9, 2013

        Hopefully our next Irish coach will see the value of an openside especially seeing as how all four of our provinces use one…….
        I’m ambivalent about 7’s if it means we will have to drop the wolfhounds( not exactly used as a pathway to senior squad, another debate though) or cut funding to the provinces. Ive heard both sides of the argument as regards bringing players through and how the skills dont readily translate to 15’s. Spot on about players waiting for injury to claim a place, even more pronounced at international level.
        If we could do 7’s on the cheap with first/second year academy/sub backs/backrow(maybe even a few locks) from the provinces and contract a few upper end AIL players to broaden the player base I would be all for it. I wouldn’t like to see Jordi Murhphy jetting off to HK when hes racking up games atm, two years ago when he wasnt in the squad? Definitely.

  6. Amiga500

     /  April 8, 2013

    Never been convinced by Nick Evans.

    Looks the job when the going is easy… never looked great to me in a tight game.

    • Bob

       /  April 8, 2013

      Your choice of FH (insert name here) would have struggled behind the Quins pack that was pummelled by Munster in the 2nd half. Evans is a class operator, but he can only work with what he’s given, and that was fairly rubbish service from his pack, especially just after the break.

    • Yes, Nik Evans is a class player. He’s won plenty of tight games for Quins, not least putting over a wobbly drop goal to beat Stade that set them up for the infamous bloodgate match.

  7. Stevo

     /  April 8, 2013

    You’d almost forget just what an influence Paul O’Connell is on his team when he’s been out so long. Then you have a day like yesterday where he’s so immense that not only has he played himself onto the plane to Australia, but from a lot of people’s perspective he’s now the obvious choice for captain. Peter O’Mahony was brilliant too, for once living up to the hype that’s been generated about him over the last couple of years. And maybe now Tommy O’Donnell will receiving the hype that his performances this season have earned.

    The really surprising aspect of yesterday’s game for me was how good Laulala and Downey looked in the twenty minute spell after the break. It looked like Quins had prepared for the Munster centres to go on being used as dummy runners and were too slow to adapt when they actually started not only getting the ball in hand but actually offloading. Unsurprisingly a lot of the tear-soaked prose from Thorino et al this morning is of the old Munster way prevailing, but if anything it was a Munster mentality more than a Munster playing style which was revived yesterday, so credit to Penney where it’s due.

    • Bob

       /  April 8, 2013

      Indeed. Penney won a fair share of ITM cup titles, so he can coach, even if it has really worked for much of the season to date. Munster still seemed to give the ball a fair amount of air, it was by no means pure 10 man rugby.

    • Yep, we all seem to be agreed on this point that it wasn’t just a blood and guts performance from Munster, and the centres were crucial to the whole thing. It’s a very easy narrative to fall back on the ‘old Munster values’ carrying the day, and make all sorts of presumptions about Penney’s tactics taking a back seat, but if anything, this is probably wht Penney has been looking for since the start, they just haven’t hit a balance, and have made an awful lot of basic errors. Above everything else, Munster were much more accurate than they have been in their play on Sunday.

  8. Have to say, it looked exactly like Penneyball to me – specifically the game that RP has tried to stress they are aiming for, rather than the variable efforts his team has produced throughout the year. There were still forwards in the wide channels and they still used the full width of the pitch – but the heads were up and they attacked the space, didn’t just shovel it sideways without interesting any defenders.

    No need to say anything about POC. I guess O’Mahony showed why he gets so much attention, and also divides opinion; where it all ties together is that I think the vast majority of people are probably agreed on the player he is capable of being. Another step on the way yesterday. O’Donnell was also excellent – it’s been a long time since the consistent Coughlan has been Munster’s third best back row player in a match (and that’s no insult to the man, he played very well).

    Agree with the comments on the centres. Individually they both had their best games for Munster, but more than anything it was easily their finest performance as a partnership.

    The only worry would be the scoreline. A six-point win, with no tries, does not reflect their utter dominance (and in great conditions).

    Still, I was in Twickenham and Ulster were crap, so it could be worse for Munster fans.

  9. TJ Hooker

     /  April 8, 2013

    A good performance by Munster, they applied the pressure and Quins crumbled. But holy shit, the response of the Irish media would drive you insane! And we give out about the English media…So let me summarise the message from this morning’s papers:
    POC is now in serious contention for the Lions captaincy (on the basis of one non-Test match in which he played well);
    ROG has proved his detractors wrong (and Deccie) by kicking over a few penalties (and missing a couple of straightforward ones – seriously, would Keatley not have done at least as good a job behind such a dominant pack?).

    I presume the rugby pundits aren’t quite this thick and are just giving the people what they think they want to hear.
    I was delighted Munster won, but let’s be realistic – Quins were poor and have been poor recently in the Premiership; Clermont present a challenge that dwarfs that of Quins; and Munster got the breaks (esp. the ref’s decisions) yesterday.

    • Manga's League

       /  April 8, 2013

      O’Connell is definitely being over-hyped, he was awesome, but didnt win the game on his own (I actually would have given the MoM to Murray, who outplayed Care all over the place and his game management was brilliant). In fairness though I’d say his contention for Lions captaincy is based hugely on the fact that he was Lions captain 4 years ago, has played excellently in all games since his injury and completely out-shone Robshaw in the captains role (another favourite). There aren’t many other options left- Drico…Warburton…

      • TJ Hooker

         /  April 8, 2013

        Agreed that POC has the experience and is showing some good form – he might yet earn a place on the plane to Oz. But for the captaincy I think we have to judge it on Test match performance – were we to judge Lions eligibility on Heineken Cup form then Lee Byrne might be the only Welshman going!

        • I think the reason for the Paulie hype, certainly around his captaincy credentials, is based more on the team performance than his individual one, great and all though it was. His leadership seems to increase the ability of everyone around him. If thoes aren’t captaincy credentials I don’t know what are. And, yes, a TJ Hooker sais, it’s not just based on this one game, he has great experience behind him.

      • Murray went a long way to sealing his place on the Lions squad with that performance. Philips and Youngs nailed in there now but Murray is now clearly ahead of Care for 3rd spot. Only variable is whether Laidlaw’s “versatility” might be preferred.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  April 8, 2013

          The only problem being he still cant pass.

        • Without wanting to make everything about the Lions – I know the squad announcement is coming shortly, so everyone is bound ot be focused on it – Murray does look to be working his way up the pecking order.

          I think we have to accept we got a little overexcited about Danny Care a few weeks back. Barnesy actually nailed it this weekend in his preview in the ST. He’s a great instinctive player, but not a great thinker or strategist. He’s exceptionally quick to the ruck and great at getting the ball away quickly, but when the game requires a little more thought he can look lost and makes poor decisions. We still rate him highly, but that’s certainly a weakness in his game.

          • Jimbob

             /  April 8, 2013

            Agreed re Care. I initially fancied him for the Lions 9 shirt but after the 6N meltdown he had and yesterdays game he may have to settle on a trip to Argentina instead. It’s between Youngs, Laidlaw, Phillips and Murray now.

  10. Oh, and if we’re doing ligindary Munster performances in the HEC, my shout out is for Perpignan away the week after the “academy” game in Thomond. Jaw on the floor.

  11. Kudos to Munster. They did all you could ask of them and more. That said Conor O Shea needs to take a long hard look at himself now. Of all people he should have known what Munster would bring and seemingly did not prepare for it. Shoddy, sloppy and likely to have cost some of his high profile players there much touted Lions places.

    • I agree with that – O’Shea, if he looks in the mirror hard enough, might consider Quins might be a good sell here.

      Are there any other open positions for which he’d be a good fit? ……….

      • Studs Up

         /  April 8, 2013

        Here’s a thought, O’Shea to Leinster if/when Schmidt fills Ireland post? Just sayin…

  12. Yossarian

     /  April 8, 2013

    Delighted with Munsters win(i really hope the provincial rivalry has been finally put away)Great to see an Irish team beating an English team!Quins never had the stomach for the fight and even though there was only 6 in it with 10 to go their body language was of a beaten side. TOD smashing lads after forward passes/knock ons when quins were just waiting for the whistle epitomized their commitment to hurt Quins at every possibility.Quins have struggled against Leicster/Saraceans they don’t like physical packs really coming at them.
    Munster also loved being the under dog once again.We used to say never write Munster off but thats exactly what we were doing again and they thrived on the “us against the World” mentality. POC speech after the game gave an insight into how they got motivated for this one.
    Claremont have the pack to match them but if they aren’t right mentally they will be in for a shock.
    To think there might not be a H Cup in 2014!most entertaining competition in world rugby (Sorry for sounding like a Sky Sports host but you can’t beat it for drama!)

  13. Premier Warrior

     /  April 8, 2013

    Credit where it’s due, decent piece and no snide swipes … keep it up!
    Key for me was Downey, sunms up what Munster were getting wrong all season, obviously Paulie sat down with the coaches and other senior players during the week and they decided to play to their strengths and, eureka, suddenly Downey (6’4 17st) was being used as the battering ram he became renowned for in England. He gave Munster a focal point, his own confidence soared and suddenly we have the tackle of the year on Mike Brown.
    As for Paulie himself? Ridiculous …. he may not be the uber athletic, Sam Whitelock secodn row, never was, but who can match him for presence?

    • I think Paulie is actually exceptionally athletic. Is it not his reach and ability to bend over backwards to claim improbable lineout and restart catches that have made his name?

  14. Premier Warrior

     /  April 8, 2013

    Accepted but in terms of mobility around the park, speed over the ground, off-loading etc he would be behind the likes of Whitlock, Gray and Parling

  15. Buckfast Billy

     /  April 8, 2013

    Hasn’t Gatland suggested that he’d already picked his captain before this round of matches? If that’s the case, then I suspect that POC will have earned a spot on the plane but not the captaincy

  16. jojo

     /  April 8, 2013

    He’s not a shoe in for captaincy, but he’s definitely the kind of leadership you want on tour.
    POM is still getting over hyped in the press, not saying he didnt have an excellent game, but O’Donnell was the stand out back row in my opinion. (but not if you only have eyes for one player. after his kick and chase he doesnt do much)

  17. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  April 8, 2013

    I haven’t read all the comments but It is interesting to note no mention of CJ Stander.

    Paul O’Connell was the best player in Europe this weekend. Others showed more skill but none stoked the fires of the men around him like “The Lion King” did.
    And in that there is a problem.
    Munster did not play the “old game”, this was a game played under Penny’s instruction but Munster are inconsistent. Similar to Ireland they currently are able to blow hot, while being cold most of the time. The base performance level needs to be upped and less passion should be required.

  18. Peat

     /  April 8, 2013

    Without wishing to play down Munster’s performance at all – which was fantastic and a match for a better team than Quins were that day – this is not some sort of apocalypse for O’Shea or Quins.

    There are some real issues for them. That they rarely seem to have a plan B when their offloading game gets lost is a standing issue and one that really should have been solved by now, and something that should be mentioned when talking about O’Shea for jobs in Ireland. That they didn’t seem to have practiced maul defence was pretty odd.

    But, in large part, Quins have simply gone completely off the boil at the wrong point of the season. They don’t have the biggest squad, they’ve played a lot of guys more than they probably should have – and in some cases needed to, something else that should maybe be born in mind regarding O’Shea – and this is far from the first game they’ve looked short of a spark in. A lot of players have been very subpar recently. I thought they’d beat Munster as Munster looked even less likely to find one, and it’s possible Quins let that settle in their minds too much as well, but they can rest fairly easy in the belief that they are a far better side than they have been showing lately and it’s mainly a matter of finding form.

    As for Munster – really well done to all Munster fans reading this, and good luck against Clermont. Nigh regardless of what happens, this can be the building block for the younger generation.

  19. Ben M

     /  April 9, 2013

    LeinsterLion – I’d have to disagree with you about O’Mahony being ‘ordinary’. I know there has been media hype about him but leave that aside and watch him.

    He is 23. Bear that in mind. Since his AIL days with Cork Con he has grown as a player, developed his skills and improved every season. Is he the finished article? No of course not but he was immense against Harlequins when it mattered and his grunt work in most games is unstinting.

    When Ireland were in trouble against Italy he moved to the wing. He has a willingness to lay it on the line for his team and from what I have seen and heard about him he has real leadership qualities.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  April 9, 2013

      IMO he had 20-30 outstanding minutes after the half where he stood out as the most industrious and dogged player on the park. Exceptional come lineout time. Ordinary to middling for the rest of the match. I dont think he has the build or game for an international 6, hes built in the mould of a Croft or a McLaughlin, he’s lightweight in frame and playing style. I think a 6 has to be a Rocky Elsom, Ferris, SOB, Kaino,J Smith style bulldozers who can truck it up and cut you in half in the same breath. You say he has grunt? I would say he is industrious at times and has lots of endeavor, but I have never seen what I would describe as “grunt work” from him. SOB has grunt, POM does not.
      I think hes below international quality based on his form over the entire year. I’m not questioning his commitment or honesty, I just dont rate him, in the same way I dont rate McLaughlin to ever make an impact or start as an international blindside. A back row needs balance and for example him at 6 Heaslip/SOB at 8 and TOD at seven we would be too light, hes a contender for the bench to cover, thats about it.
      I’d rank SOB, Ferris, Diack ahead of him and bracket him with Locky, Muldoon, Hendo in no particular order.

  20. Couple of points to hit, that have been aminly touched on above.

    It truly was a special performance, one that I didn’t even dream was possible the night before (& I’d been drinking). As much as I love the concept of nothing being impossible to the brave and the faithful, I’m too much of a worrier by nature to have the blind optimism that would have been neccessary to be confident that Sunday’s result was an inevitability. I saw some people complaining about the lack of tries in the HC quarters but for me rugby’s not about tries, in the same way football is about goals for example. There’s more to it that that, most of which could be seen on display on Sunday. It was a great rugby performance.

    I think it’s a stretch to say it’s the game they’ve been threatening to play all season. Frankly the only thing they’ve been threatening is my mental health when they threw the third intercept against Glasgow. However it did show what Penney has been trying to achieve, and hopefully can consistently produce in the future. I think the centre partnership finally clicking with Downey producing his best performance in a red shirt and Laulala meshing with the rest of the backline. There’s been talk about who should get the credit for Sunday, Penney or O’Connell and the players but it seems to me that Sunday was when they finally met each other’s expectations with results that we all saw. As we discussed on Twitter, it’s easier to produce these one offs in cup rugby, especially for Munster. This doesn’t meen it’s not laudable but nor does it mean we can write off the middling performances of the season so far. As mentioned above, hopefully it’s a building block for the future, rather than an assumption that the job’s done.

    Back to sunday, there really were exceptional performaces across the park. The front row managing to turn the penalty tide in their direction was huge, although needless to say I don’t agree with Frankie who thought they were robbed with every call, due to Garces’ preconceived notions about his brave warriors in red. The rugby conspiracies that live in Frankie’s brain really are most colourful.

    Words of praise to Murray who really is growing in his game, we can but hope it will continue to be an upwards trajectory. I thought Zebo looked very sharp given the lay-off and the backrow really were incredible. I don’t know what more to say about O’Connell other than it was a performance to warm the heart of any rugby fan (maybe bar Quins) and if he ever needs a kidney he can have both of mine. His value is not just in his own game but the way he can bend a contest to his will, in a way that both Munster and Ireland have been lacking. Without taking away from other performances, he raises his teammates to new levels and inspires them to follow him into any breach. Immense.

    Not to throw the cat among the pigeons but there was talk on Twitter after the match about Leinster fans supporting Clermont in the semi and I was interested to hear what people thought about that. I appreciate that Leinster and Clermont have a very special connection born of a great rivalry and I don’t believe that one Irish performance should be forced to support another just because they’re Irish. However it would be nice if they wanted to. From my point of view I tend to support any Irish team once they’re not playing Munster. I watcha lot of Leinster and went to the Ulster Edinburgh semi last year. I’m yet to grace the Sportground but hope to remedy that! again, I’m just talking about my own viewpoint here, not some sort of prescription, but I’d have a hard time shouting against players I support when they’re all wearing green, even against Clermont who would be the worthiest possible winners of this years tournament from outside our fair isle. Was just interested in what people thought?

    • Yossarian

       /  April 9, 2013

      you will always get a few Leinster fans cheering Munsters opposition just as there was Munster fans witnessed cheering on wasps on friday.a minority that is shrinking as people get over the H-Cup obsession(we have won a lot between 3 of the provinces and not the piece of silverware to lord over the others it once was) as People start striving for more from the national team and are no longer satisfied with provincial success. I want Grand Slams and Championships not Rabo,Amlins or H-Cups!

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  April 9, 2013

      Kate,
      Having enjoyed the pre and post match festivities with many different European teams over the years while following Leinster, their is a mutual respect between many of the provinces/regions/clubs met home or away.
      The experience with Clermont is unique in the sense that I feel the mutual respect shifts to a mutual admiration. Schmidt and Cotter are great friends and clearly set the tone for each camps view towards the other. Nathan Hines is still considered a Leinster player in the fans eyes because he wanted to stay but with the IRFU’s foreign player policy being what it is, he had to go. Clermont have come out in clear support of Leinster’s efforts in the Rabo which is a gesture I cannot recall on any other level. We(I) have also got on with each any every one of the Clermont supporters that we’ve shared a match day with.

      In contrast to this, many Leinster/Munster supporters have experienced an unpleasant moment or two with the oppositions supporters.

      Being Irish I wish the other provinces well and I will cheer for them when they are playing a European rival, but Clermont and Leinster have something just a little bit special.

      • Gerry doesn’t need to speak French. he just lets the funky music do the talking.

        • Brian Kelly

           /  April 9, 2013

          I think most Irish fans have moved on from any sort of narrow, parochial “beggar my neighbour” attitude now and will support the other provinces in Europe.

          As Cillian mentions, though, I think there’s a definite affinity between Leinster and Clermont fans after the recent battles between the sides.

          Personally speaking, I’ve never got on better with another set of fans than I have with Clermont – that stems from the RDS quarter final a few years ago to the Bordeaux semi last year, and the group games in Clermont and Dublin in December. The memory of the walk to the stadium in Bordeaux will stick with me for a long time and I genuinely wish their fans well. The Hines/Schmidt connection increases this for both sets of fans.

          So I’ll be somewhat torn for the Clermont-Munster match. I thought Munster were fantastic on Sunday (although realistically I think Clermont will have a bit too much for them). I have a ticket for the HCup final (bought in the heady days of hoping for a Leinster three in a row) and I think if Munster win the semi I’ll give it to a Munster fan. But if Clermont win, I think I’ll go and support them wearing the Clermont tshirt that I swapped after the match in Bordeaux last year for my Leinster jersey (I came off the worse for the bargain – the tshirt is absolutely massive [yer man was built like a prop] so I look like a child when I wear it).

          • Manga's League

             /  April 9, 2013

            That’s a load of bull. Munster have a special relationship with Clermont too. It’s called ‘putting the fear of god in them!’ POC shtyle!

    • Ben M

       /  April 9, 2013

      I saw it as well. Success seems to have morphed some (and I stress some, not all, not tarring anyone here) Leinster fans into the very thing they used to accuse Munster fans of being – arrogant.

      I’m of an age where you support your home side and then any other Irish side left in any competition.

      How you can contemplate supporting a French team against an Irish team is beyond me. But I think it is the same mentality as people who wanted Ireland to lose so Kidney would get sacked.

      I’m all for rivalry but this inter-provincial sniping (Whiff you alluded to it being worse when Ireland play and you’re right) does my head in.

      • It didn’t come across to me as interprovicial rivalry or arrogance, more as a genuine love of Clermont rugby and their fans. Which on one level is lovely and admirable that two such rivals have that rapport. but on the other it’s sad that it’s an the expense of another Irish team. Swings and roundabouts. I just thought it was really interesting. I know my own feelings on it but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here, that’s why I was interested in hearing the views of other WOCers.

      • This is a tricky one but I’m not convinced that a fan of one province and of Ireland has to necessarily support all other provinces, come what may. And I don’t think that’s arrogance, I just think that’s normal. (You’ll rarely catch a Liverpool fan cheering Everton on!)

        As a Leinster fan, they are obviously my number 1 team. Also, I am more or less always up for Connacht (except when they’re playing Leinster), out of a combined sense of underdog-ness and IRFU-negligence, so they’re my number 2. After that, when a match comes, I try to take it on its own terms – there are probably three factors that get thrown into the mix (although I’ve never written it all out).

        One factor is that sometimes I will, due to understandable bias for my team, want someone to win that makes things easier for Leinster (e.g. the final round of pool matches in this year’s HC!). Another is that, as a rugby fan, I will happily watch a team that plays really good rugby and also happily watch them win. Lastly, being Irish, everything else being equal, I will support Munster or Ulster.

        But I don’t think for a second that that final factor has to drown out everything else. Munster were a great team to watch in the mid-2000s, and Leinster have been great to watch over the last five years – but if either starts playing dross, I think we should be mature enough to say “thanks but no thanks, I’m not cheering for that ahead of [insert brilliant team B here]”.

        I’m not sure where all this leaves me with regard to Clermont vs. Munster. As a Leinster fan, there is a great connection between what we would like to think of as the two giants of European club rugby. But as a Leinster fan, they still were the ones who knocked us out and I’m not sure if I’m over it. I will probably keep my heart out of it and watch as a neutral. Whatever team makes it to the final, it will be big news and so it will be nice to have watched it play out.

  21. Yossarian

     /  April 9, 2013

    I made the point elsewhere that what impresses me about O’Shea is his ability to take average players and mould them into something more. Turner-Hall/,Williams/Lowe are all pretty ordinary.they are not a side littered with internationals. He has rejuvenated and rehabilitated others (Easter decidedly average for most of his career,Care has had plenty of issues) He managed to out think the bigger packs of Northampton,Leicster and Saraceans to win the Premiership last year. I think he deserves a lot of credit. Quins have struggled against big packs this year so it wasn’t a total shock they couldn’t deal with Munster when they really brought it physically.Not trying to take anything away from the Munster win,they were immense but O’Shea has taken a team and made them more than the sum of their parts-something that was not happening with the Irish side this year.

    • Peat

       /  April 9, 2013

      A lot of this isn’t true. Quins first choice pack is one of the biggest in England. Johnston and Kohn are both north of 21 stone, their entire back row 17 stone or over. Nick Easter has been a very good club player since Richards’ time, as has Care, whose off the pitch issues have only really surfaces over the past year or so. Turner-Hall should not be ordinary. He’s a nigh 17 stone centre with significant toe and excellent offloading. It’s exasperating that he hasn’t made it as a full international, as he had it all. Likewise, George Lowe burst through as a player of real promise – a winger’s pace married to good physicality and a very sharp rugby brain. A season and a half ago it was presumed he would challenge Tuilagi. Two significant failures of development. He’s doing a very fine job with Quins, but you significantly overegg the pudding there.

      On a side note, I thought that was the flattest I’ve seen Ronan O’Gara in a very, very long time, and it paid big dividends.

      • Yossarian

         /  April 9, 2013

        Easter has never impressed me till the past 2 seasons,looked as overweight as Waldrom for most of his career.Damien Browne is north of 21stone as well-hardly makes for a quality player,their front 5 had 18 caps between them!I stats like Height and weight don’t equal power(Wallace would be small at 15 1/2 stone but sensationally powerful in contact).never said they weren’t a good side,but my point is they are hardly superstars in the same category as the multi-capped squads/benches you used to get from English league winning sides like Leicster, wasps etc. (i would like to stress again i am not taking from Munsters achievement but trying to give O’Shea some due credit for his achievements with Quins in winning Amlin,LV cup and Premiership)

        • Peat

           /  April 9, 2013

          How much of Quins domestically do you watch? I watch a fair bit and have many Quins supporting friends – Easter has been an absolute hero for them. Likewise, guys like Johnston, Kohn, Fa’asavalu, they’re not just big, they’re obviously really powerful as well. Didn’t come across Munster, but watch them domestically and they have some stand out physicality. I’m not overly surprised in hindsight that the Quins team lost the breakdown – Joe Gray is important to them there but wasn’t starting, Luke Wallace wasn’t included while Fa’asavalu is distinctly out of form – but a team that physically strong up front shouldn’t be getting pushed around by Munster.

          I don’t want to downplay O’Shea’s work too much – he’s added some real accuracy to the way they play, they’ve got the best hands in the Premiership and at their best they play some beautiful, really effective rugby. That’s with a side mostly internally developed as well. And, yes, they are very much more than the sum of their parts on most occasions. But he hasn’t taken a rabble and turned them into premiership winners – he took a side filled with very good league players equal to what most others are toting – and a lot of Quins’ weaknesses are arguably O’Shea’s fault. Some of the things you are crediting him for simply do not ring true to me.

          And doing better than Kidney has with Ireland in the last year is a very low hurdle indeed!

  22. Exactly, Yossarian. Whereas, Clermont have a totally superior class of player to Quins, which is why, pace POC, they probably weren’t arsed whom they drew, as they should beat either Quins or Munster comfortably, especially at home. I say this as a realistic Munster fan.

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