On another famous European night for the province, this was a significant marker for the new regime and its relatively young playing group and the South African head coach, just four weeks into the job after succeeding Rassie Erasmus last month, credited O’Mahony’s selflessness as well as his performance.
The 28-year-old Cork man had ended fears he was set to leave Munster at the end of the season by signing a new deal that will keep him at home until at least 2021 and his performance in Leicester, including three lineout steals, underlined just how important it was for the IRFU to secure the services of Munster’s inspirational captain.
“I thought it was a world-class performance by a world-class player,” van Graan said.
“The announcement of him staying, it’s massive for Munster but he never made it about himself.
“It was all about the team and about the performance. So well done to Pete for a magnificent performance.
“All credit to the pack. All credit to Jerry (Flannery, forwards coach), who came up with the plan; Billy Holland, who spends hours dissecting lineouts and, you know, we came up with something this week in the lineouts and put them under quite a bit of pressure.
“We also knew they had a new hooker (Tatafu Polata-Nau) coming onto the field in the second half who hasn’t been at the club a long time and we did a lot of research on that and I thought our plans worked out quite well.”
Van Graan also praised an improved discipline as the penalty count dropped from 14 last week to seven last night and credited the less experienced members of his team, including starting hooker Kevin O’Byrne, handed his chance after an injury to Rhys Marshall and excelling with some accurate lineout throwing, as well as wing Alex Wootton.
“I said last week, we weren’t happy with our discipline. I thought we adapted quite well to the referee last week and even better this week.
“We know this was going to be a totally different battle, there weren’t going to be a lot of steals, which I don’t think there were any in the game, possibly bar the last one.
“So very happy with the composure and maturity shown by the team. We want to go to the next level. This team is hungry to grow and very happy with the away result.
“I thought Kevin O’Byrne had a fantastic, fantastic game. Coming into the starting position in a game of this magnitude.
“I thought Jack O’Donoghue off the bench was absolutely fantastic and Niall Scannell coming back... but it was an all-round performance by the 23 in terms of the planning, the guys who travelled with the squad — it was a big team effort.”
With O’Mahony having secured his future for the next three years, the IRFU’s next job is to do likewise for fellow Ireland and Lions back rower CJ Stander, also out of contract at the end of the season.
“There’s a lot of negotiations going on behind the scenes, but now we’d like to create a very happy environment for our players, a place where people can grow, be themselves and play for Munster,” van Graan said.
“We want to make a club rich in tradition and also moving forward, so keeping world-class players and attracting more world-class players would be one of the big things that we look to do, so hopefully he stays.”