Ulster now the only realistic contenders for last eight
Munster lost David Kilcoyne to a stomach bug before the game, and their scrum struggled tellingly, and neither were they helped by losing Felix Jones to a dead leg in the 20th minute.
“I’m really proud of the boys’ performance and effort and energy they put into it,” said Penney, “and in those really tight fixtures, this one was always going to be like that, there’s just critical moments that happen in a game and they capitalised on those critical moments and credit to them. They’ve come away with a victory at home. So it’s a bit of a double-edged feeling to it. I can’t commend the lads highly enough on their endeavour, but disappointing not to come away with a result.”
The atmosphere was for the most part cracking, with a huge invasion by the vociferous Red Army, with repeated renditions of The Fields in contest with the repetitive “Stand Up for the Saracens” ditty (literally at every break in play, even as O’Gara was placing penalties on the tee) being tediously played over the tannoy. Tacky.
“I think any team will do what they can to try and enhance their own prospects at home,” said Penney. “I am just so amazed and blown away by the Munster supporters and how passionate they are. It’s really, really humbling for me to be in this seat thinking that there’s such a wealth of support for the boys.
“It just makes everything that you do, not that you’re not conscious of everything that you do and it’s got to be done to the nth degree, but when you know how many people are really supporting you and wanting you to do well . . . it’s humbling, but it also makes you that little bit more determined to try to eke it out for them.”
As a downcast Joe Schmidt admitted, even if Leinster were to reach 20 points with bonus point bins at home to the Scarlets and away to Exeter, it’s doubtful that will get them through, not least as they have only scored three tries to date.
“Twenty has given you a sniff in the past but I can’t see Exeter, or Scarlets, coming along to us and saying: ‘hey look, you guys deserve five’. I think anything you get from either of those teams you’re gong to have to grab and you’re going to have to be very good to do it. I’d hope that we might have a little more depth back at that stage but it’s very difficult.”