The last-ditch heroics may have become a staple of Munster’s European campaigns but for Andrew Conway, the dramatic Champions Cup victory over Sale Sharks was a whole new experience.
After an injury-hit debut season following his summer 2013 move from Leinster, Conway made the most of his first Munster appearance in Europe with an accomplished try-scoring debut as his team came from 23-7 down to win 27-26 thanks to Ian Keatley’s last-kick drop goal.
“It was one of those special Munster days but for me a first,” Conway said. “It just shows how experienced the lads are. We were struggling in the first half, a good few points behind going into that second half and it was invaluable to have those lads who have been through those big European days.
“Keats coming in at the end (with the drop goal) was exceptional; it was the best feeling I have ever had on a rugby pitch.
“It was brilliant to be involved in a day like that. The lads in there who have been involved in days like that before say today was special.
“One of the questions before pointed out that we couldn’t afford to start off like we did last year against Edinburgh, losing with the group that we have. We have Sarries next week... they are so strong. It was great to be involved in the start of the European Cup and to be involved in a win like that was brilliant.”
As Conway suggested, the focus has promptly switched to this Friday’s round two meeting with Pool 1 favourites Saracens, who will visit Thomond Park fresh off last Saturday’s bonus-point home win over Clermont Auvergne.
The time for celebrations was over, he said, and it was time to address the issues that left them firmly on the back foot at 23-7 down coming out for the second half.
“We are going to have a few harsh reviews. There wasn’t much I could take personally in a positive way from the first half. I felt a lot of traffic coming down my wing. I’m going to have to look at it and see. I think I definitely made one defensive error, when hitting in to try and stop it but they got the ball away. So the first half is going to be looked at in serious depth because we can’t afford to be 23-7 down against any other team. That’s not good enough.”
As to the reasons for the first-half meltdown which saw Munster lose their way after an opening try from Dave Kilcoyne, Conway said: “It wasn’t being caught cold but they (Sale) played very well in fairness to them. We were lucky we didn’t concede more in the first half.
“We were struggling, there’s no denying it. We were caught badly a few times, good play by them and poor play by us.”
One of the reasons why Munster clawed their way back into the match with second-half tries from Conway and Conor Murray was their composure, which stemmed from a cool and calm half-time break led by Anthony Foley, who had vented his frustrations at the fourth official before heading down the tunnel, and his assistant coaches.
“I didn’t see Axel (Foley) angry at all. He came in, gave us a few minutes to catch our breath, get our fluids on board and then he gave clear messages. We split up... Cossie (Ian Costello) says stuff, Squeaks (Brian Walsh) our attack coach, would talk and then we would come together at the end. But there was no panic at all which was key.”
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