Versatile Munster forward Billy Holland believes the hard-fought 9-7 win in Belfast at the weekend can help turn their season around.
It was only their fourth league win away to Ulster but the 30-year old said it carries extra significance after a miserable run of defeats as they now prepare for three weeks of Champions Cup action.
“We are still alive in everything, we just had an awful five weeks where we played some good rugby but just came out the wrong side of the results. And this is a results-based business.
“The only thing that matters is getting the win so it was crucial we got something out of this one going into three European weeks in a row.
“It doesn’t get any easier when you are in a 16 week block of games, it’s very difficult to turn things like that around, so hopefully the win can kickstart the next run for us,” said Holland, ahead of the first of two meetings in eight days with French giants Stade Francais.
It was his first 80 minutes since the Pro12 final loss at the same venue to Glasgow Warriors last May and he is hopeful his injury problems are behind him after breaking his ankle while captaining Emerging Ireland in the Tblisi Cup during the summer.
He admitted they were under pressure going to Belfast taking on an Ulster side on a roll after four straight wins.
“Having lost five games in a row, it doesn’t get any easier when you are coming up to Ravenhill to play Ulster. It was a very difficult task and thankfully we stuck at it. We dug in and we went back to basics. We’ve played a lot of good rugby over the last couple of weeks but we haven’t scored points and we’ve conceded a lot.
“It wasn’t a perfect game from us but we fought and we kept fighting, it was brilliant to get the result,” said Holland, who has now chalked up 117 appearances since his 2007 debut.
But the Cork man, a vital cog who can cover the second row and back row, warned the win in Belfast wouldn’t do anything for them in Europe unless they seized the opportunity themselves.
“We put a stop to the dam and hopefully that will help kick us off for the next few weeks. It won’t give us the win next weekend but it will help give lads a bit of confidence. There are a lot of young fellas playing there, and new lads in the team like (Francis) Saili.
“It’s a snowball effect: when you are winning you get the rub of the green, when you are losing like the last five weeks it tends to go the opposite way.”
Holland was full of praise for the way out-half Ian Keatley took control of the game and saw them over the line with a couple of penalties and a drop goal.
“He was outstanding. Keats was brilliant. He controlled the game. And not even those nine points he got, he was just turning their defence, putting the ball in behind.
“For me as a forward, you can’t say how important that is for us to be on the front foot.”
Munster have been dogged all season by injuries and Holland is just relieved to be back posting 80-minute performances after his ankle break.
And with Tommy O’Donnell starting his first game since the Pro12 final, coach Anthony Foley has finally got more options for his back five.
“That’s my first match since the final last year,” said Holland.
“I haven’t started a game in six months and Tommy hasn’t started a game in four months. It’s not easy coming up to Belfast, it’s one of the hardest places on the circuit to win and we’re all chuffed. It’s even more difficult for the fellas that played the last five weeks. In a perverse way, it’s easier for lads like us who haven’t been playing over the last few weeks to come in and get the win.
“Now we just need to build on it.”
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