American contingent add to 'great European atmosphere'
Published 22/01/2016 | 02:30
Munster's Champions Cup clash with Stade Francais on Saturday saw members of the MRSC USA Branch and Morris Rugby Old Boys, New Jersey join forces for their fourth annual pilgrimage to Thomond Park.
In all 17 fans made the journey and, as is tradition on the night before the main event, Morris Old Boys went toe-to-toe with the Castleisland RFC Legends in a warm-spirited challenge match, with any post-match aches and bumps soon soothed by a few social beverages in the Castleisland clubhouse bar.
With some of the travelling party lucky enough to join the pre-match Guard of Honour, the MRSC USA Branch displayed passion, commitment and allegiance to Munster Rugby across the Atlantic week in and week out, and were delighted to join the over 14,000 fans at Thomond Park who showed their support when it was needed most.
"It's good to get goosebumps again at Thomond Park," was the reaction of captain CJ Stander when asked about the vocal and passionate support that accompanied Saturday's win.
With the Munster, to all intents and purposes, out of Europe with two rounds to play, the performance and result on Saturday still carried serious weight as Foley's charges look to finish the competition on a high and regain some winning momentum before a return to PRO12 action.
Following on from the third highest and highest attendances of Rounds 1 and 3 respectively, the Red Army again turned out in numbers to hand Thomond Park the second highest attendance of Round 5.
In the build-up to the game, Stander and Anthony Foley spoke about delivering a performance that was worthy of both the jersey and supporters, and with that duly delivered against the French Top 14 champions on Saturday, the captain and head coach made particular reference to the spirited home support and the added lift it gave the team.
Foley said: "There was an unbelievable support in Thomond Park considering the situation we were in. They came in numbers, took part in the game and got in behind the boys, and both fans and the team fed nicely off each other. It was a great European atmosphere.
Stander added: "We did not want to let our supporters down and there was a lot of pressure on us to get that pride back for the supporters. The fans stepped up and it was unbelievable to hear them. "It's good to get goosebumps again at Thomond.
"We had nothing to win except pride. The crowd came out, you can hear them and that's the spirit of Munster. It took a lot of hurt from last week, but guys stood up and it's unbelievable."