Penney: I feel hollow after defeat but I'd love another shot at Toulon
FOR Rob Penney, this was the end of his affair with the Heineken Cup and the Japan-bound New Zealander was left "hollow" by the experience of losing a second successive semi-final on French soil.
Still, he believes that the squad he leaves behind are not far away from taking the relationship with whatever the competition is called next year on to the next stage by reaching a first European final since 2008.
It won't happen on his watch – all that's left for Penney is the Pro12 and the gnawing disappointment will come from the fact that this game was there for the winning.
"The two experiences I've had at semi-final time, I've left hollow," the Munster coach said.
"Both occasions I believe we could have won and I suppose it's just as the squad matures a bit ... I don't think there was a belief issue today. Last year it was a little bit of a belief issue, but this year I don't believe so.
"I thought we didn't get a couple of early decisions, momentum swung and we're chasing our tail a little bit all the way through. And on top of that were the unforced errors we were making... it just wasn't to be.
"The learnings from that are we've just got to be more patient, build pressure, because we've shown time and time again that this team's very capable and it will grow and it will learn and it will be here again."
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal had declared that the Irish province had given his side the greatest test of their season and Penney was proud of their effort, if not their execution.
"Look, Munster, these boys are tough men," he continued.
"They turned up to play and I think there was probably a lot of doubt about whether we would be able to come here and compete like that.
"All that doubt was probably outside our dressing-room. I think we had a lot of belief in the room and if we were to play it again...
"I'd love another shot at it. I don't think the lads feel as though it was too daunting. I felt they were in with a shot right the way through."
As for the decision to go for touch instead of kicking at goal with nine minutes remaining, captain Damien Varley would not change a thing and the coach backed his captain.
"We felt we were physically on top at the time," the skipper said. "We felt we had a strong maul up front so it was an area we wanted to target and they defended it quite well in the end.
"But we still believe it was the right decision to go for it."
He made his call and Munster will have to live with it as they watch Toulon and Saracens go head to head on May 24.