If it wasn’t one of those sporting nights when the globe stopped spinning or anything like that, it was darn close. Of course, the intro on Sky Sports to Saturday night lights at Thomond Park built us up nicely.
"If I say miracle, you think of who?" wondered Alex Payne before reminding us of those past great escapes perpetrated by Munster in big games. 2003. 2006. 2011. 2013. One year rolling into another, all great escapes that created the legend of invincibility. Or 'Miracle Men' as the host broadcaster labelled them.
Scott Quinnell, though, sensed something was in the air. He was down on the pitch so close to the Clermont team that his giant frame was in danger of being swallowed up by the Frenchmen. Scotty's microphone was faulty and brought us a patchy dialogue that could have emanated from on the moon.
“You can see it in their eyes,” said a shaken Quinnell of the ferocious pre-match workouts performed by the visitors, before going on to warn that Clermont were working on their driving. It was to prove a prescient observation.
The opening sequence had brought moment after moment reminding us of Munster’s escapology, more often than not with Ronan O’Gara performing the role of superman.
Still, even without ROG, the two Quinnys – Quinnell and Quinlan – focused in on the fortress effect of Munster’s home ground. As the Welsh Quinny put it, “to be a Munster man playing here must be special, equally coming down here playing in this cauldron, Clermont Auvergne need to come out, they need to keep this crowd quiet.
“Can they do that? That’s their challenge, silence this crowd. We’ll see if they can do it.”
Irish Quinny laid out what his former team-mates needed to do. “First and foremost, let’s not wait for the crowd, let’s start with intensity, bring the passion out onto the field and then let the crowd get involved.”
As it turned out, we didn’t have to wait long at all before Quinnell’s prophecy was realised, as Clermont drove over in the corner inside the opening minute for a
try that silenced the home crowd. It came about in exactly the type of driving move that Quinnell had observed in the pre-match workouts. His warnings hadn’t found their way back to the Munster dressing room.
At half-time, one of those dressing-room cameras brought us images of Anthony Foley standing and talking to his team.
“I wonder what on earth Anthony Foley is saying?” asked Payne, with Quinlan wearing that ‘wouldn’t happen in my time’ look about him as he remarked that Munster were getting beaten physically by the French invaders.
“They’re beating Munster up at the breakdown,” he said, before going on to provide his solution to Munster’s problems of being the little kid trying to find a way to stop the big bully outmuscling them on their own terrain.
“Get your aggression up, stop being bullied,” said Quinlan.
And although Munster did up their aggression up in the second-half, it wasn’t enough to keep the French invaders from bringing down the old fortress.
Chuffed with himself
Still feeling quite chuffed with himself for correctly pinpointing exactly what Clermont had been working on in their pre-match workouts, Quinnell remarked: “They were in Munster’s faces from moment one!”
The real Quinny was telling us that it was a “reality check” for Munster, unaccustomed as they are to being on receiving end of a battering and a bruising from the opposition. And the next step in Munster’s journey is a trip to the home of their conquerors.
“On paper, they shouldn’t win,” admitted Quinlan, “but who knows with Munster?” Time, it would seem, for one of those miracles.