Yes, it was merely a pre-season friendly; but even as two competitive clubs experimented with their replacements bench beyond the norm, it was a match that never appeared to lose its focus.
It was a match both teams clearly wanted to win and that helped provide excitement for the 6,500 crowd right up to the last moment when English international Tom Voyce was blown up in the air and out of play by rookie Munster full back Felix Jones in that dramatic 84th minute.
A year ago, Jones was left wondering whether he had any future in professional sport after a serious neck injury that kept him out of action until last week’s 40-minute run as a substitute against Leicester.
But if that moment secured victory for Munster, it wasn’t the whole story of their success. Indeed there were gasps of excitement from the terraces as Munster’s front row trio of Wian du Preez, Damien Varley and Tony Buckley ruthlessly exposed the Gloucester scrum. The success there didn’t fade as the replacements came on hot and heavy in the second half.
Munster prospered out of touch too, securing their two tries after success in the air before power and precision in the rolling maul.
A delighted McGahan attributed it to hard work on the training paddock and Quinlan endorsed that view when he said the team had identified problems in certain areas and knuckled down to hard work to eradicate them. Last night was only phase one; it was merely a friendly, but it was a good start and the result and performance was greeted as enthusiastically within camp as it was on the terraces.
Munster, despite having to defend strongly in the opening minutes, produced the most realistic opening scoring chance and Paul Warwick kicked a penalty after 10 minutes.
Yet, the visitors surged into the lead five minutes later with a well-deserved try from fly-half Tim Taylor who followed up his own chip through to score, and he converted himself.
The home side came desperately close to scoring when Johne Murphy was sent away down the wing; up to 10 Munster players handled in subsequent assaults before a turnover inches from the Gloucester line.
Two more decent attacks also ended in failure but the reward came four minutes from the break after Tommy O’Donnell won a lineout and du Preez stormed over for a try. Paul Warwick converted to secure a 10-7 lead that was no more than Munster deserved.
Indeed, it could have been greater as the home pack powered on the pressure, particularly in the set scrums.
It got better three minutes into the second half when Munster scored a second try. Opting to kick for touch from a penalty, they won the lineout and drove powerfully forward to give Quinlan the opportunity to dot down for a 15-7 lead.
That was reduced to five when Taylor kicked a 62nd minute penalty but Gloucester were fortunate to survive when substitute Simon Zebo cut through before Munster lost possession as he tried to offload near the line in the 80th minute before Gloucester’s late offensive was halted abruptly by Jones.
MUNSTER: F. Jones, D. Howlett, J. Murphy, S. Tuitupou, I. Dowling, P. Warwick, P. Stringer, W. du Preez, D. Varley, T. Buckley, I. Nagle, D. Ryan, A. Quinlan, D. Leamy (captain), T. O’Donnell.
Replacements: D. Fogarty for Varley (40), N. Ronan for O’Donnell (45), D. Williams for Stringer, M. O’Driscoll for Nagle (both 49), B. Holland for Quinlan, S. Archer for Buckley (55), S. Deasy for Tuitupou (59), S. Zebo for Howlett, D. Ryan for du Preez (both 64), P. O’Mahony for Leamy (68), I. Dinneen for P. Warwick, D. Barnes for Murphy (both 73).
GLOUCESTER: O. Morgan, J. Simpson-Daniel, T. Molenaar, E. Fuimaona-Sapolu, T. Voyce, T. Taylor, R. Lawson, A. Dickinson, S. Lawson, P. Capdevielle, W. James, A. Brown, A. Strokosch, L. Narroway (captain), A. Hazell.
Replacements: D. Attwood for Brown (40), P. Buxton for Strokosch (45), B. Deacon for Narraway (48), D. Dawiduik for S. Lawson (52), H. Trinder for Fuimaono-Sapolu (56), J. Pasqualin for R. Lawson (57), Y. Thomas for Dickinson, R. Harden for Capdeveille (both 62), J. May for simpson Daniel, M. Cox for Hazell, C. Sharples for Morgan (all 66).
Referee: D. Wilkinson (IRFU)