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Dan Sheridan
What It Said In The Papers
4 April 2010, 5:55 pm
"Why did we ever doubt that they would get through this ?" asked Kieran Shannon in his piece in The Sunday Tribune
"Because of a few stuttering performances in recent weeks," Shannon wondered, "Because Northampton rattled them here back in the group stages ? Because Paul O'Connell wasn't fit to play? Yesterday they once more reminded us that this is Munster, in the Heineken Cup, in Thomond. If Munster have had a Sparticus this past nine seasons it has been O'Connell but yesterday there was a queue of team-mates willing to declare they were the same man. His replacement Mick O'Driscoll was one; his repacement as captain, Ronan O'Gara was another with his brilliant kicking to the corners after half-time; David Wallace, Alan Quinlan, John Hayes, three more as once more they formed a human red wall. And shouting above all of them was a man a good deal smaller than any of them, as Tomas O'Leary made real fools of those who doubted not just Munster but O'Leary himself after Paris."

"If Leinster were counting their lucky stars to still be alive in the tournament after Friday night's epic encounter, then Munster once again thumbed their noses at the naysayers with another classic Thomond performance." - Donal Lenihan, The Irish Examiner.

" Munster may have been without their Roy Keane Factor, captain Paul O'Connell, but this was more than compensated for by their Heineken Cup Factor. Tony McGahan had forecast they would produce "something special" and the defeat to Leinster the week before had further helped concentrate minds. Perhaps we should long since have learned that Munster's performance the week before another big Euro foray should always be discounted. In winning the second half 20-3, this was typically intelligent Munster cup rugby at its best, applied with brains, bravery and belief. As potent as ever." - Gerry Thornley, The Irish Times.

"For all the surmising that this was a team under pressure, creaking, lacking spark, lacking leadership, this was still the Heineken Cup and nobody knows the competition's wonderfully unpredictable topography better than the men in red. It acts almost as an intangible catharsis for this side and, against one of the more accomplished quarter-final visitors to this ground, Munster clearly demonstrated the advantages of grizzled experience over dewy-eyed insouciance." - Dave Kelly, The Irish Independent.

"The Saints gave it what they had at Thomond Park but even though they led at half-time there was always a sense they lacked that touch of class, that edge of ferocity, that streetwise savvy born of years of experience. Ronan O'Gara, Alan Quinlan, Keith Earls - Munster had men of substance in key parts of the field. Small wonder, then, that O'Gara was able to show that his game management is without equal. Three times he screwed 50-metre kicks with one bounce into touch. "A masterclass," purred Mallinder." Mick Cleary, The Telegraph.

"Northampton, the team that beat them by a point in the 2000 final, became the latest side to learn a Limerick lesson on Saturday. The English high flyers gave as good as they got but even that wasn't enough to stop this Red army marching on to a May date with Biarritz in San Sebastian." Cathal Dervan, The Star.

"The English side contributed handsomely to a spellbinding tie and Munster had to survive a few troubled patches, but it would have been a travesty had the home team lost. For the most part, Tony McGahan's team managed to stem Northampton's huge firepower up front and most of the creative moments belonged to them. They scored four tries to the visitor's one: tries made by forwards via mauls or scrums and finished by backs. It was a vintage 15-man display." - John O'Brien, The Sunday Independent.

"Dougie Howlett produced his finest performance for some time. He was given no more than a pot plant of field for that first try. Somehow he wriggled through to score. If you forgot your key, you could send Dougie through the letter box to open the door." - Billy Keane, The Irish Independent."

"Another invigorating exhibition of blood and thunder knock-out rugby and another Heineken Cup quarter final that had those privilaged to be watching, enthralled at the finish. - Liam Heagney, Ireland Mail on Sunday.

"Four tries did for Northampton, who despite contributing fully to another riveting quarter-final in this competition, could not quite summon the authority that fairly oozed from Munster's every pore. This was not a rout, even if it felt a bit like one by the end. Munster owned an overwhelming majority of the ball and the field, but they had to summon all of their fury to half-break the Saints at the start, and then they had to do it all again in the second half after the visitors had absorbed everything and actually taken to the sheds at the break with a three-point lead. - Michael Alwyn, The Observer.

"Northampton may have believed they had the set piece game to unsettle Munster, and they clearly felt galvanised by the experience of having pushed their opponents close earlier in the season. Against that, Munster clearly reckoned they had the backline to open the Saints up, for they did so ruthlessly, all four tries coming from the outside backs, despite disruption of having to move the menacing-looking Keith Earls to the wing for Ian Dowling just after the break. Four quality tries - and this from a team who couldn't buy a touchdown. It says as much for their nerve and ingenuity as it does for Northampton's defensive naivete. - Peter O'Reilly, The Sunday Times.

"Clarke's try helped Northampton to a slim half-time lead, but the English club lacked composure and territory in the final quarter. Munster, in contrast, oozed experience." - David Hands, The Times.

"It wasn't vintage but it was enough. and in knock-out rugby, enough is all that matters. Munster are through to the Heineken Cup semi final against Biarritz and while they may not be in the finest of form, there's plenty of time over the next three weeks to put that right." - Ciaran Cronin, The Sunday Tribune.


"For a team reportedly reeling from the trauma of a third successive loss to arch-rivals Leinster, it was the day to stand up and fight. Munster, even without the influence of injured skipper Paul O'Connell, deemed it inconceivable that they should lose a second successive competitive match at Thomond Park. Their response to a huge Northampton challenge was a timely reminder of their measured best; they knew what they had to do and knew how to do it.
The alarm bells rang when Northampton struck a blow on the cusp of half-time to secure a fortuitous interval lead; it was the Leinster game all over, only with the stakes doubled.
At this stage of the tournament there are no excuses and no second chances and Northampton had the whip hand. But they reckoned without the influence of stand-in captain Ronan O'Gara." - Barry Coughlan, The Irish Examiner.

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