What a match on Saturday! Not exactly a display of scintillatingly skillful rugby (finals rarely are), Munster fought tooth and nail every step of the way to gain a superb 16-13 victory over Toulouse (do they ever make it anything less than nerve-shredding for their fans?).
This was a display of sheer doggedness, passion and intelligent use of the ball against the technically-superior French side, who are undoubtedly the better side man-for-man on paper. Happily, these things rarely count for much against Munster. Toulouse looked massively dangerous whenever they got the ball out wide or into the hands of dangermen like Yves Donguy, Yannick Jauzion and Cedric Heymans, but it was to Munster's enormous credit that this wasn't allowed to happen too often. along with the sheer brilliance of every single one of their front eight, Kiwi backs Doug Howlett and Rua Tipoki were superb - making big hits when necessary and almost combining for a superb try, a slightly forward pass by Tipoki meaning that Howlett's scything run didn't get its just deserts.
Ronan O'Gara was his usual self, kicking for the corners with accuracy and nailing the kicks that needed to be nailed - though he did give some cause for alarm when a couple of his clearing kicks were charged down, luckily with no particularly serious repercussions. He wore his usual expressions of concern and annoyance throughout the match, though I did enjoy the momentary look of boredom while he hung around waiting for a drop goal opportunity that never quite materialised as his forwards slightly over-exerted themselves during an incredibly long phase of pick-and-drive. I have to say, nothing pleased me more than to see O'Gara end the season on such a high, after his miserable experiences in the World Cup last September. I had my doubts at the time that he would ever fully bounce back from that, but I'm delighted to say hat he has entirely proven me wrong. Any personal problems he may or may not have are certainly not manifesting themselves on the pitch any more.
So well done Munster, you've made the country proud again, and given a fitting send-off to your wonderful coach Declan Kidney. If Kidney can instil the same sense of pride in the shirt and courage and patience under pressure into the lads form leinster, Connacht and Ulster then happy times are surely ahead for the national team.
New Zealand to come in the autumn, anyone got tickets?