Munster live to stand up and fight another day as all roads lead to London
Looking ahead to their quarter-final away to Conor O’Shea’s English champions, Rob Penney said: “Harlequins are obviously doing great in the Premiership and earned the right to a home quarter-final by topping their group. They’ve got class right across the park. So my initial thoughts are it’s bloody tough to go over there and get a result, but if everything goes for us we can get a result. We’ve got to embrace it.”
Feeling the pressure
Having been feeling the pressure, and hence clearly relieved, he was asked of the consequences had Munster not qualified for the last eight. “Look if we hadn’t, obviously people would be in the long grass. There would be a lot of bullets being fired,” said Penney before reflecting on the missed chances away to Racing and Saracens particularly.
“We were a hair’s breadth away from doing some really good stuff against really good sides. If we hadn’t have got the outcome today, I would have still be very proud of the progress we’re making and the areas of growth that we’re getting.”
“So I would have had to put the flak jacket on probably, and the hard hat, but I’m happy to do that because I really believe in this team and the direction it is going. And you mention the importance of today’s result in getting into the quarters, I think all it does is probably it takes the pressure off me for a little bit longer.”
“But that’s why I’m sitting in this chair and I love it because we’re on a wee pathway to something pretty special, I think, with this group and if can’t have faith in it then I don’t deserve to be sitting here and if I get criticism and I can’t defend myself, then I shouldn’t be sitting here. So I think what it’s done is probably just bought some breathing space so we can continue on this path, hopefully.”
Munster achieved yesterday’s win without Paul O’Connell and Ronan O’Gara for the first time in 106 Heineken Cup matches, dating back to before the turn of the Millennium. “We’re seeing massive growth in some of the guys who haven’t had a lot of exposure, and every week there’s great things happening within the group. A landmark performance today? You could certainly say we’ve sewn a seed, and it’s only germinating,” said Penney, adding: “I think it was a performance that was probably coming and it was great that it happened today in such a big game and in front of the Red Army, who were superb and really got us home today.”
So Munster have squeezed through again. But on top of the decision to keep the captaincy with Jamie Heaslip despite the return of Brian O’Driscoll, the Irish squad link up today with Munster having qualified at Leinsters expense.
Not exactly ideal.