On a beautiful sunny day in south Dublin, hosting a great occasion in this legendary competition, you would have settled for two out of three if the match didn’t quite match. It did more than that.
two teams came to play, and when they have the skills to make it work, even casual fans can understand why this brutal sport can sometimes be a beautiful thing.
The icing on the cake was the extra time and shoot-out with goals – attempts scored were the first criterion to determine the outcome after extra time and the teams were even there. Of course why not? No one in the crowd of 40,476 went anywhere.
Chances were none of them had ever witnessed a match settled by accuracy from the tee just two hours after it all started. It’s true, it’s fabricated and cruel, but gets the job done and is fair to all involved.
For the first time in a riveting game, the atmosphere turned to downright strange when the shoot-out was canceled early, with Munster two out of five and Toulouse failing at four out of four. The winners looked too exhausted to celebrate and, to their credit, they were just as busy comforting the losers as they were cheering their own success. Considering what they’ve been through here, they are already on the back foot for next weekend’s semi-finals.
Munster will take the time off, but desperately wanted to get back to work. It was difficult, especially for Ben Healy, who missed his two shots, and Conor Murray who missed his second. They have done little wrong all afternoon.
If things had turned out slightly differently, Healy would have been the hero with the 80 minute clock and referee Luke Pearce breaking Toulouse’s momentum with a penalty for Munster, you immediately thought of him – and his big boot.
He had come in just eight minutes earlier for Mike Haley, a timely substitute, and from about 60 yards he came very close to finishing the game.
Instead, we went into those two bizarre 10-minute periods when a new game of chess presented itself to two exhausted teams. If, like Healy, you were as fresh as a daisy, your worth was through the roof – perfectly illustrated by Thomas Ahern’s instant impact.
Nothing is more careful in rugby than extra time. Nobody has any interest in playing rugby, but there is an acute interest in not making mistakes and staying as far away from the own stick as possible. In times like these, bad decisions are made. Here it was each one.
With minutes to go, Toulouse had gained some real momentum – both sides’ only series in the extra period – but just as they were making progress in the Munster 22, they pulled it back to Thomas Ramos, who tried to drop his attempt. goal thwarted .
By way of leveling up, Munster did the same at the end with the time almost up. Instead of going through a few stages and getting a penalty or better opening for a drop goal, they went straight for the drop goal option, which Healy narrowly missed. He will have a lot on his mind now.
There won’t be much satisfaction in the red zone that Munster played very well and their key men stood up. Peter O’Mahony was a huge influence, with four big steals – three of them in his own 22 with Toulouse in the lead. Murray also played a great game, as did Simon Zebo.
They also seemed to have done it the hard way. When Matthis Lebel dotted the ball into an ocean of space in 27 minutes, with a brilliant last pass from Ramos adding the extras, the French had a 14-7 lead. It felt like a defining moment. What followed only emphasized the course of the game: away from the home side.
Sometimes, when you make a series of mishaps or mistakes, it serves to reinforce the message that this will not be your day.
Significantly, it started with Mike Haley, in the shape of his life, spilling a ball that should have been taped to his palm.
The launch pad for a change was spot on, with a solid scrum and accurate looking attacking play until the fullback grounded it.
It was followed by Carbery knocking on a ball that presented itself over the back of a lineout, then to put the tin hat on it, the excellent Damian de Allende broke behind Toulouse’s defenses – a go-to play for Munster in the wide channels – only to see it float over the sidelines. Quite a hat trick.
And yet they had the composure to work their way back into it with an effort from Keith Earls, nailed from the sidelines by Carbery.
Whatever was going on at the scrum Munster refused to let it permeate the rest of their game.
But they couldn’t solve those problems in the scrum, and time and again Toulouse used it to ram the point home.
After converting 14-14 at halftime, Munster took control of the third quarter, starting with a try from Haley, just two minutes after Carbery went wide on a penalty.
That was the highlight. When Rory Arnold turned and Zebo drove onto the grass five minutes later, there wasn’t a man, woman, or child in red who wouldn’t want Pearce to pull out a map from his back pocket that matched their shirts perfectly.
They had to make do with a yellow card and with the second row out, Munster kept up the pressure with a Carbery penalty just before the hour for a 24-14 lead.
But Toulouse is the king of this competition for a reason. A second attempt by Label changed the picture and a penalty from Ramos pointed the game towards extra time.
Scorers – Munster: A Kendellen, K Earls, M Haley try each; J Carbery pen, with 3; Toulouse: R Ntamack tries, M Lebel 2 tries; T Ramos pen, 3 drawbacks.
Shootout – Toulouse: 4/4 (A Dupont 2, T Ramos, R Ntamack 1 each). Munster: 2/5 (C Murray, J Carbery 1 each).
Munster: M Haley (B Healy 72); K Earls, C Farrell, D de Allende, S Zebo (C Murray 97); J Carbery, C Murray (C Casey 60); J Wycherley (J Loughman 55), N Scannell (D Barron 55), S Archer (J Ryan 51), J Kleyn (J Jenkins 60), F Wycherley (T Ahern 72), P O’Mahony (capt) (J Daly 65), J O’Donoghue, A Kendellen.
Toulouse: T Ramos; D Delibes (M Medard 44; P Foutssac 72), P Fouyssac (B Germain 64), P Ahki, M Lebel; R Ntamack, a Dupont; R Neti (C Baille 47), J Marchand (capt), (P Mauvaka 47) D Aldegheri (D Ainu’u 51), R Arnold (yc 51-61), E Meafou, R Elstadt (A Jelonch 47), F Cros, T Flamment.
Referee: L Pearce (England)