Munster lock paul O’Connell hailed the cool heads and decision making of his side as they carved out a 7 – 20 Heineken Cup win away to Gloucester.
The two-time European champions adopted a measured approach, allowing the hosts maintain most of the possession and forcing errors from them.
While the southern province’s tries came by way of Keith Earls and captain Peter O’Mahony, it was the work without the ball which man-of-the-match O’Connell highlighted in his post-match interview with Sky Sports.
“We played a lot of the game in and around our 22 metre line,” said O’Connell, “and it would have been very easy for guys to make poor decisions there, but I think we were very patient and trusting of each other and I think it made a massive difference.”
Gloucester’s dominance in possession and territory was borne out by Munster’s 131 tackles (to the hosts’ 36). However, the penalty count almost dead level at Gloucester’s eight to nine.
“You’ve got to trust guys to make good decisions at the time – whether the choke tackle is on or whether you try and go low and try to poach, or go low and don’t go near it at all.”
Without access to the post-match statistics, the Ireland captain stopped short of guessing the number of turnovers (Munster forced nine, six at the breakdown) before adding that the efforts on the ground £made a massive difference to us especially when they had us under pressure in the second half.”
With Edinburgh failing to score a fourth try in their win over Perpignan, Munster are now confirmed as winners of Pool 6 and therefore assured of a place in the European quarter-finals. With that progress assured O’Connell spoke of his enjoyment with the current Munster setup and squad, but added the caveat that results can make us all fickle.
“I really enjoy playing with the guys here at the moment, they live a bit in the shadow of the mid-2000s team, but they work incredibly hard. They’re good fun to be around, good fun to train with – it’s just a very enjoyable place to be.
“You could have asked me that a few months ago when we lost to Edinburgh or last week when we lost to Ulster and it’s a different story, but when you win it’s great.”
Next week Munster welcome Edinburgh to to Thomond Park aiming to win and add another four or five points to their current tally of 18 and hope that results elsewhere might allow them earn a top four seeding and home advantage when the knock-out stage rolls around.
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