It was his piece of individual magic that turned the tide against Toulon and delivered Munster a place in the Champions Cup semi-finals but Andrew Conway believes it will count for nothing if his side does not kick on and reach the final.
Sunday: Stade Chaban-Delmas, 3.15 (Irish time)
Referee: JP Doyle (IRFU)
TV: BT Sport
Bet: Racing 4/6, Munster 13/10, Draw 17/1
The Munster back-three star etched his name in the province’s European folklore on March 31 when he stretched out his arms to keep a Francois Trinh-Duc clearance kick in play, turned on his toes and raced over the Toulon tryline to get his team back on the front foot at Thomond Park. Ian Keatley’s conversion edged Munster into the lead and three minutes later, the home supporters were celebrating another famous quarter-final victory over illustrious visitors.
Yet the 26-year-old has not wasted time reflecting on a score the rest of Munster has been raving about ever since and is guarding against making it anything as important as a career-changing moment.
“I think if it changes too much then you’re going to get stung,” Conway said. “Celebrating is great, it’s great to score and it’s great for it to have an effect on the result, but if I’m still watching it on YouTube and I’m thinking about it now, then it’s no good to me.
“It would be great if we could look back on it at the end of May as being a pivotal moment in us winning the European Cup, but at this point it was a big moment in a quarter-final that got us to a semi, but now we’re in a semi and that’s a new challenge, really.”
For Conway, his try for the ages made for a remarkable comeback from a knee injury that had kept him sidelined since the end of January and caused him to forego his place in Ireland’s victorious Six Nations Grand Slam-winning squad.
“It was great. Missing out on things like the Grand Slam, pending selection obviously, is tough and at the time you are watching the lads playing massive international matches that you might have been involved in, again pending selection, but you can only look at these things for so long.
“Again, you change the page and there is a new challenge and at this time of the year you have knockout rugby if you get out of your group, so you miss out on a few big games internationally, but soon after there is a quarter-final to play in, so it is great to play in these big games.
“That is why we all play rugby for, so that is why we train so hard and we want to get out of our group, especially getting a home quarter-final.
“Playing in Thomond Park in Europe is just different ... so they are the big days you play for.”
Conway is hoping for more than just one more big day and the possibility of facing his native province Leinster in the Champions Cup final in Bilbao on May 12 is tantalisingly close now.
“Yeah, it would be cool, wouldn’t it? Yeah, but we will think about that after Sunday, I’d say.”
It is fair to assume Conway will not be overly concerned whether Leinster or Scarlets emerge from Saturday’s first semi-final if he is part of a winning Munster side 24 hours later that books its place in this year’s Champions Cup final.
“It would be mad, I am not from here obviously, but I went to the 2006 and 2008 finals with my dad. Heineken Cup or European Cup finals is different. There is something magical with Munster in Europe that you can’t quite your finger on, like I said about going to Thomond Park, last year going to Dublin for the semi-final for the Saracens game was the best atmosphere I ever played in, in my life.
“It is so disappointing to not perform on those days because of what’s around you, your family are in the crowd, the crowd are on a different level and you want to play in those days as much as you can. They are the days you will remember in 30-40 years when you look back on your career and say those are the special ones.
“I’m sure hopefully Bordeaux is similar in terms of what the crowd bring, but then it is down to us to perform on the pitch.
“The crowd will definitely do something for us, but they don’t win you semi-finals as we saw last year, so we just need to perform.”
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