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Disappointed Munster players after the final whistle in 2004
Looking Back On A Classic
1 January 2008, 3:14 pm
"Munster will look back on the video and reflect again that at one point, however unlikely it had looked, somehow they were 32-22 ahead and had the winning of the game. They didn't close it out and to a large extent have only themselves to blame."
That was what Gerry Thornley had to say in his Irish Times match report on Monday 26th April after Munster had been beaten 37-32 in what was described as possibly the greatest game ever played in the history of the competition. Played in front of a full house Lansdowne Road that was a sea of red, when Lawrence Dallaglio emerged into the brilliant sunshine and cast his gaze around, he uttered just two words, "Holy ****."

It was a game full of drama and that drama of course began in the lead up when Alan Quinlan failed a late fitness test to be replaced by No ALT tag specifiedStephen Keogh in a back row of Jim Williams and Anthony Foley but no Denis Leamy or David Wallace. Then after 29 minutes, Munster lost Ronan O'Gara with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Jason 'Dutchy' Holland and at one stage in the game they were briefly reduced to 13 after first Rob Henderson and then Donncha O'Callaghan were yellow carded.

In his match report Thornley says, "Given Wasps were the more cynical of the two sides, especially from the outset when Lawrence Dallaglio might twice have been binned had he not been Lawrence Dallaglio, it seemed harsh that the yellow cards were produced and in particular O'Callaghan's was an awful decision."

Recalling that incident today, Thornley says, "He (Nigel Williams) said it was for hands in the ruck. But O'Callaghan made no obvious attempt to play the ball with his hand, but at the time I think the penalty count was 18-5 against Wasps no maybe that was a factor."

No ALT tag specified"To be fair, all things considered, I think Wasps deserved to win. I remember talking to Warren Gatland some time later and he said it was the greatest game he was ever involved in.

"Looking back, I believe Munster were unfortunate," continues Thornley, "to come up against the best team in the world that day. And I have no doubt, had the opponents been any side other than Munster, they (Wasps) would have won by a clear forty points."

Munster coach that day Alan Gaffney, when contacted before he set out with Saracens for Scotland where his side take on Glasgow Warriors, recalls, "first up the atmosphere in the stadium. It was unbelievable.

"It was a fantastic contest. Obviously very disappointing, especially when we took that lead. But that's the sort of side Wasps are.No ALT tag specified

"I said at the time the loss of Ronan was hugely significant to us. Dutchy did play well when he came on, no question of that but I think Rog might, just might have closed the game out when we were 10 points up. Maybe, maybe not.

When asked that day could Munster come back from what was a shattering defeat, Gaffney replied, "There's no reason to suspect we can't do it again. The boys have a lot of courage and pride in what they do. They have a great work ethic. There is no reason to expect we can't come back."

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