Champions Cup: Munster boss Johann van Graan hails Thomond Park crowd after knockout win

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

After losing their first leg match with Exeter at Sandy Park 13-8, Munster were able to secure an aggregate win upon their return home to Ireland with the final overall score of 34-23.

A stronger squad, featuring returning starters like Joey Carbery and Peter O’Mahony, aided by a thunderous Thomond Park helped earn Munster a spot in the Champions Cup quarter-finals.

The head coach of the home side, Johann van Graan, was full of praise for the crowd who provided the extra boost needed for their side to clinch victory.

Van Graan also applauded his replacement forwards who justified the coach’s decision to opt for a six-two bench split of forwards and backs with their tremendous effort and hits.

16th man played crucial role

“We, as a group, said that to claw back that five-point difference is going to be massive. The fact that we were unbeaten in the pool stages meant that we were always going to finish up here at Thomond Park,” he said.

“We banked on the crowd and they were phenomenal today. We knew it was going to be a breakdown and a set-piece battle, that is why we went 6-2 again (in terms of the forwards-backs split on the bench).

“The starters did really well and I felt that the forwards that came on were massive, with some massive hits.

“Exeter keep the ball well and I felt we were extremely disciplined in terms of when to go for the breakdown. I’m very glad that we just came through, with plus-11 points over the two weekends.”

As was aforementioned, Ireland international fly-half Carbery returned to the first XV after missing the first-leg fixture and rewarded Van Graan for the faith he keeps in him.

“I said to him earlier in the week that when I had met him a few years ago that I have so much belief in him. He is such a special player,” confessed the coach.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter conceded that Munster were the better side and also heaped praise on the home crowd, adding that his side simply needed to be better than they were.

“I can talk through the game in all kinds of ways, but there is a reality that we were not where we needed to be today to win that game,” he said.

“We started pretty brightly and then our first set in defence was so far off what we were achieving last week with its intensity and collision quality, that worried me a little bit.

“That probably made me have some concerns, with how simple that momentum came and how simple the (Carbery) try came. To be fair to the lads, we fought our way back into the game at times and we score our second try, it becomes a tight contest again.

“I thought Munster were where they needed to be and we weren’t. I think that is great credit to Munster and the crowd and the emotion they created together.

“I thought it was fantastic for them. But we needed to be better than we were today.”

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Munster and La Rochelle win, Exeter and Bordeaux out

The article Champions Cup: Munster boss Johann van Graan hails Thomond Park crowd after knockout win appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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