Sad to lose but we still have huge tests ahead
Last weekend against Saracens was a difficult result for us to take, but sometimes in rugby you have to say well done to the better team that won on the day. Despite the disappointment, all of our focus quickly shifted to tomorrow's game in Treviso, where we aim to secure a home semi-final with a win.
Saturday at the Aviva Stadium was a huge occasion for the whole province of Munster and considering the support we received from our fans, it is tough to take a defeat like that. But we can be happy that we gave it everything and there was not too much to complain about on the day.
From the moment we left our hotel to go to the ground it was clear how the Red Army had travelled to support us. Of course we had all heard about the amount of tickets that had been bought by Munster supporters ahead of the game, but when our bus pulled up at the ground there was a great crowd of people there cheering us in.
Once the boys got ready and went out on to the pitch, we were met with a deafening shout from the supporters, and that was rarely silenced through the game - even when things didn't go our way. A huge thank you goes out to the supporters that lifted our efforts, and we hope to have a few more big occasions to shout about before the end of this season.
In the game itself we were behind 6-3 at half-time after we had played pretty well in the opening 40 minutes, but Saracens defended very well against us, and then punished a couple of infringements from the tee.
It is not an excuse, but to lose Tommy O'Donnell and Peter O'Mahony in that second half was difficult for us and it meant that we were restricted in our changes from there on. Jean Deysel also picked up a knock when making a great tackle to save a try, and CJ was also in a bit of discomfort in the closing minutes, although he still managed to get over for a try.
But at that stage we were out of touch as Mark McCall's impressive side showed their talents. Well done to them; they are a quality side and I wish them well in the final against Clermont Auvergne.
It was a shame that we could not match the result of the 'A' team on Friday night that saw them crowned B&I Cup champions. Congratulations to all of the players and to Peter Malone and his coaches for their success. We are all part of the same squad, so their win was celebrated just as much in the team room as it was in Cork.
They had a tough start, but what a second half they put in to take the win. When Alex Wootton ran in his brilliant try there were great scenes as the squad celebrated. It's great to have a piece of silverware in the province again.
After such a physical weekend for the squad, we gave the boys Sunday and Monday off to recuperate, but we were back together as a collective on Tuesday to prepare for Treviso.
This is a tricky game for us in Italy against a Treviso side that has recently showed good form to beat Edinburgh and Ospreys. While it is pleasing to know that two more points will guarantee us home semi-final in the Guinness Pro12 on May 20, we are not going into this game with the mentality of just getting across the line. We want to put in a big performance tomorrow and claim the win, and we want to do the same in our last game of the regular season when Connacht come to Limerick next weekend.
In recent months in the Champions Cup and Pro12 we have given the games 100 per cent focus and our performances have generally been good as a result. It is important that we carry on the standards we hit in Europe into these two games and then into the semi-finals as well.
While we have a regular seven-day turnaround this week, travelling to Italy will give us that extra few things to manage. We fly out today and will have a light session this evening in Treviso, a town that I am very much looking forward to seeing for the first time.
We are well aware, though, that these Italian trips can cause a problem for teams. In the past Munster has lost to Treviso three times in just 13 games between the sides, so we are forewarned that surprises can happen if you are not ready for them.
Since last weekend the players have been focused on this test and we hope that we will be coming home tomorrow with another win in the bag and a home semi-final to look forward to. It will be tough, but we are confident.
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