Monday 22 July 2019

'Off the field I think it is the people - it's breath-taking to see the supporters' - Van Graan hails Red Army

Munster head coach Johann van Graan celebrates after the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final match between Edinburgh and Munster at BT Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Munster head coach Johann van Graan celebrates after the Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final match between Edinburgh and Munster at BT Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, Scotland. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Munster coach Johann van Graan hailed his team and their fans after another special day in the province’s European history at Murrayfield.

Despite coping without the ball for much of the game, the Reds came from behind against Edinburgh to book their place in the Heineken Champions Cup semi-finals for the third successive year thanks to Keith Earls’ superb winning try.

Munster had to cope with plenty of adversity after losing Mike Haley to illness before the game and Joey Carbery and Jack O’Donoghue to injury during a first-half that also saw Tadhg Beirne sent to the sin-bin.

But they hung on in and produced a mammoth defensive effort before taking their chance when it came with 10 minutes to go.

At the end, the players celebrated with the huge contingent of travelling fans as they began to look forward to a semi-final.

"Firstly, off the field I think it is the people," van Graan said when asked what it is about Munster that sees them come back from adversity so regularly.

"If you were inside the bus when we arrived here, it's breath-taking to see the supporters. It felt like we were going to play at home.

"In terms of the group, that's why I came to Munster because of what Munster is about. It's about passion, integrity, real heart and real grit.

"Munster never seem to do it the easy way and we certainly didn't today.

"So, I'm incredibly proud to be coach of this team.

"The message from me to the team was 'brilliant, let's enjoy tonight. It's our third semi-final in a row, it's going to be a massive semi-final and we as a group have got big dreams and we will get to that in a few weeks’ time."

Van Graan was full of praise for the defeated Edinburgh side who caused his team all sorts of problems on a difficult afternoon.

"I'm delighted, it was an incredible game of rugby between two sides who didn't know how to give up,” he said.

"A lot of credit to Cockers (Richard Cockerill) and Edinburgh, a brilliant performance from their side. They tested us literally from the first second.

"We as a group spoke this whole week about how this game might go until extra-time, they certainly kept going and we kept going.

"I'm delighted, it's our third semi-final in a row and this was a big one for us.

"Just look at the history of European rugby, you don't come away with away quarter-final wins. We topped our pool, we knew were coming up against a very tough, disciplined side and I'm very glad we came through it."

Cockerill praised Munster’s greater experience as the difference in a tight end-game.

"They’re a good team, we’re a good team, someone’s got to lose," he said.

"There are tiny, tiny margins, even for their first try I thought their player knocked it on. It’s tiny margins from officiating. There’s all those things - there are a million things that can happen in a game.

"Munster are a good side but so are we - two very good teams going very hard at the game and it was a great contest.

"So I’m very proud of how we performed: Munster are a great team and we’re now able to compete at that level.

"Did they deserve to win? Well, they won, so well done to them. We’ve got to learn how to win these tight battles, and we didn’t do it today.

Cockerill refused to blame prop Pierre Schoeman for his role in Munster’s winning try.

The South African’s ill-discipline in body-checking Tadhg Beirne saw referee Pascal Gauzere reverse a penalty decision, which handed the visiting side the position to strike for Earls’ superb winning try.

"It’s the difference in the referee, it’s the bounce of the ball, it’s a bit of discipline from Pierre Schoeman at the end and you’re kicking a goal and you’re six points up and you win the game," the frustrated former England hooker said.

"That’s life. I’m not going to criticise Pierre, because he’s a committed fellow and he does what he does and I’ll back him to the hilt. But those are the falls sometimes. They’re a good team and they find a way to win and we’ve got to do the same."

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