If one game from last season sticks in Munster minds above the rest it is last season’s PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster, and today the men in red have the chance to make amends.
The 16-15 loss at the RDS was definitely the one that got away as far as Johann van Graan and his players are concerned but as Conor Murray observed last summer, the manner of the defeat was far less painful than the previous month’s Champions Cup last-four exit to Racing 92 in Bordeaux.
“The Racing game definitely hurt me more than the Leinster semi-final,” Murray said.
“That day against Leinster, we played well. We played one of our best games of the year... but we just came up short. It’s easier to take a defeat like that when you play well and they just played better, whereas the Racing game we gave them a lead, didn’t play well and played catch up.
“You want to give yourself the best chance. It is frustrating at times, but at least we fired a shot in that semi-final. We threw a few punches and we just came up short... that just makes it easier to accept down the line.”
Twelve months on and the latest search for silverware in Munster brings them right back to Leinster and the memories come of that RDS defeat flooding back as head coach van Graan’s attempts to get his team to click after a stuttering play-off quarter-final win over Benetton.
“That (Benetton) performance definitely won’t beat Leinster in the RDS,” van Graan said. “We’re in a semi-final and it will take a massive effort to beat Leinster there. Last season it literally came to the last blow of the game, a penalty that went their way and they went on to become the champions.
“So we’ve been there last season and it will be one heck of a game.”
CJ Stander, who switches from No.8 to openside flanker in the Munster back row today, believes his side is in better shape a year down the road, despite their last outing, the 15-13 home win over the Italians. Although the side from Treviso had two late drop-goal attempts to win it, Munster should have put the game beyond the visitors long before, wasting numerous opportunities when dominating possession.
“The performance against Benetton was not good enough, we have to up it to go to the RDS to get a win,” Stander said.
“If you have a system, you trust it and you believe in it and you know it’s going to come through at some stage.
“Do we have to do a lot of things better? For sure, 100 per cent but we’ve got a system and I think we’ve shown during the year we trust the system and it works. We just have to back that and make sure we use our opportunities.
“In rugby and in life, you get opportunities and if you don’t use them somebody else takes them. Treviso took that away from us a few times and made it difficult for us to win the game.
“We just have to use our opportunities, territory-wise again and be on top of that and use it well.”