Simon Lewis, Sandy Park
Peter O’Mahony praised his side’s character after Munster kicked off their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a hard-earned draw at title contenders Exeter Chiefs.
The odds were stacked against Munster leaving the English south-west with anything more than a losing bonus-point against a side which had stormed to the top of its domestic league with six wins out of their first six games but captain O’Mahony, leading by example, saw his side fight to the bitter end to claim the draw and two valuable points from this difficult Pool 2 away tie.
It needed a last-ditch defensive effort to keep the Chiefs at bay as they went in search of the winning points but Munster held firm through 22 phases with time up to get their reward ahead of a home game next Saturday against Gloucester.
"It speaks volumes," O'Mahony said of his side’s character. "That's their game, the pressure they put on and they play with. We knew that discipline was a big factor and apart from me, we were very good discipline-wise.
"Twenty-two phases, under your sticks, to have the discipline there to hold them out when it is what they do, you know? You watch them week in, week out in the Premiership and when they get within sight of the line they are so clinical, so oppressive.
"It speaks volumes for the lads' character."
Fly-halves Gareth Steenson of Exeter and Joey Carbery exchanged first-half penalties before a converted home try from hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie handed the Chiefs a 10-3 interval lead.
Munster had their chances to cross the tryline only to lose their composure in the opposition 22 at vital moments but having played the opening 40 minutes into a stiff breeze, Munster used the conditions at their backs to their advantage after the break.
They had a maul try disallowed midway through the half but kept up the pressure and Exeter finally cracked 15 minutes from time when CJ Stander scored from close range and Carbery levelled the scores with the conversion.
"We came here to win the game, every game you come to win,” O’Mahony said. “But you take the factors in, they're one of the best teams in England, if not Europe, their home record speaks for itself - how difficult it is to come here and get a win, even how difficult it is to come here and get a performance.
"I was very proud of the lads, it was a difficult game. The conditions were difficult to play the game and I thought the lads were very good.”