Get your Mooju back: Munster
One of the oldest cliches in rugby is that there's something special about Munster in the European Cup and that proved the case once again over the weekend after they pulled off an unlikely comeback victory over Sale...
It was supposed to be a lot less stressful for Anthony Foley in his first ever European game as Munster head coach. His side had turned a corner with the excellent win over Leinster in the Guinness PRO12 and a similar performance was expected against Sale Sharks early Saturday afternoon.
Why? Because these are the big days, the days every player worth his salt want to play in and the ones that are easy to get up for. It didn't quite pan out that way but in true Munster fashion, they still got the job done.
The first score of the game came from the boot of Sale's mercurial number 10 Danny Cipriani who kicked over a penalty but Munster's response was immediate with some lovely work from Ian Keatley and Simon Zebo eventually resulting in Dave Kilcoyne forcing over from close range. Things looked a little ominous then and we all expected the Reds to push on but the Sharks had other ideas.
Cipriani kicked two penalties after indiscipline by Munster and then came two sucker punches. Veteran Magnus Lund got over after a spell of pressure close to the line and centre Johnny Leota got those tree trunks of legs pumping and he tore through the Munster defence to dot down.
All of a sudden it was half-time, Sale 23 Munster 7 and Axel Foley looked like someone who came back to a carpark to find their car clamped, he was raging. The team talk at the break was going to be vital and Foley looked like a man who was ready to deliver a hell of a bollocking.
Whatever Foley said at half-time had the desired effect as Munster came out with more purpose and intensity to their play and the man driving that was Conor Murray. His game management and clever kicking in that opening 15 minutes was crucial in keeping the Irish province in the game and once Andrew Conway scored his try in the 56th minute, you could see the belief course through the men in red.
The momentum had shifted and most of Munster's go forward ball came through CJ Stander who ended up with a massive 20 carries and was inspirational in the loose and at the breakdown. The second try came through Murray in the 65th minute as he sniped in at the corner after a spell of incessant pressure at the Sale line, Keatley converted and we were back to a two point game.
Foley's fury returned a few minutes later when an infringement by the pack allowed Cipriani the chance to extend the lead which he did but the final 10 minutes were all about the bottle and kicking ability of Ian Keatley.
There's always been question marks about the former Connacht man's big game mentality and whether he can deliver when the heat is on but he will have quietened his critics after the display in the closing stages on Saturday.
Keatley nailed a penalty in the 72nd minute to bring it back to a two point game and then it was about patience for the two-time Heineken Cup winners. They were finding it difficult to get a foothold in Sale's half until JJ Hanrahan hit a phenomenal 60-metre kick into touch deep inside the Premiership side's 10 metre line.
Sale still had the line-out so there was no need to panic but what happened next was utterly mind boggling. Sale scrum half Chris Cusister was dragged into the maul which left Cipriani at the back and calling the shots. The logical move would have been to throw the ball to a teammate to set up another solid possession but for some reason he ran the short side, was gobbled up and forced over the line. Somehow, Munster have the ball back but there's just two minutes to go.
The Sky Sports commentary team had mentioned Ronan O'Gara's legendary injury time drop goal against Northampton around three times at this stage and we all knew that something similar was needed in those dying moments. Keatley dropped into the pocket with 30 seconds to go and try and win it but a combination of a slightly inaccurate pass and the speed of Cusiter to close him down meant he had to abort and he passed it off to a teammate. More patience required.
The clock went red so this was Munster's last chance, the forwards were being held up so they went wide and a combination of Hanrahan, Zebo and Felix Jones managed to get them in position once more to give Keatley a chance. Murray weighted the pass and Keatley did the rest as the ball sailed between the post. The refs whistle blew - Sale Sharks 26 Munster 27. Absolutely incredible.
Another Munster European roller coaster is in motion, jump on and enjoy the ride.
Get your Mooju back with great tasting chocolate and strawberry milk…