Wellington s victory over Northland meaning that the arrival of Christian Cullen will be delayed a little longer with the Lions now set to take on Waikato on Friday in the semi final of the NPC. Perhaps there was some consolation in the role that Cullen played. He scored a try and overall won rave reviews for his contribution to a victory that in the end was pretty emphatic.
But right now those same Munster supporters need something to give them a lift particularly after the way their side s fourth successive defeat was inflicted on them. They looked like they were about to get a little rub of the green in Musgrave Park on Friday when a gutsy second half performance saw them edge ahead in injury time thanks to Jeremy Staunton s injury time penalty.
The Ulster entourage will argue that by then their knights in white satin should have been home and hosed and would have been if Adam Larkin had kicked his penalties. But credit this young Munster side with the courage and commitment they showed to keep themselves in the hunt and close enough to benefit from Staunton s strike. Alas, Lady Luck s smile froze in the dying moments and after Munster had coughed up possession in the Ulster half, the play moved into the Red zone and the penalty that was forced gave Larkin the opportunity to kick his side to victory.
One couldn t begrudge them the points but your heart had to go out to a side who had suffered the loss of their influential captain Jim Williams just hours before kick off forced to withdraw with a tummy bug and who had struggled in the opening half to bring any consistency to their game. When they were good they were good but when they were bad they were awful.
Still they clung in there when perhaps they had no right and a much improved second half brought it s reward. Afterwards there was little consolation for players or supporters alike but as has been said on this site before there s no need to press the panic button.
Looking further afield, the pattern of uncharacteristic results is not confined to Munster or indeed Ireland. Leinster are in the throes of a slump and across the water even mighty Leicester are experiencing what it s like to be on the receiving end. They lost on Saturday to Gloucester and it wasn t the fact that they lost that was surprising but rather the 24-3 scoreline that raised eyebrows.
In all three cases the household names are in Australia and one other thing these three Heineken Cup quarter finalists from last year have in common, is the rash of injury that have further plagued their efforts. In Munster s case, Williams was joined on the spectator bench on the night, by Jason Holland, Mike Prendergast, Denis Leamy and Andy Long while Rob Henderson and James Blaney were also cooling their heels in Limerick.
Of the forty names listed in the Celtic League Media guide, 18 were unavailable on Friday, which means that Munster are down to the bare bones. Least this be seen as a moan it most certainly isn t. Rather a huge compliment to a small squad of players who although on a losing streak still have eight points and remain within striking distance of the league leaders.
Once again last Friday, the youngsters were asked to step up to the plate. Stephen Keogh, Trevor Hogan, Jerry Flannery, Eoin Reddan and Martin McPhail are youngsters in terms of experience at this level. Mossy Lawler and Jeremy Staunton are veterans, having just turned 23. And in the end they came up short on a 16-15 scoreline.
In the short term, disappointing. The long term? Plenty of reasons to be cheerful.