Keatley keen to kick on after sinking Sharks
CHAMPIONS CUP ROUND-Up
What went for Munster went for Ulster too. The two Irish provinces were both staring down the barrel at the half-time break from their horror shows in the European Rugby Champions Cup. Both were looking dead and buried. Both were 16 points behind to English clubs.
Munster and Ulster would have surely snatched at losing bonus-points were they offered as the former trailed Sale Sharks 23-7 in Salford and the latter absorbed a 19-3 chasm to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road.
Ultimately, Munster delivered on their long-held reputation for bouncebackability as they steamrolled Sale with tries from wing Andrew Conway and scrum-half Conor Murray to hand Ian Keatley a shot at glory.
He took it. The clock had turned red. Munster were on their last chance. Or so they thought. Keatley had to undergo the stress of turning down one possible drop at goal until he got a better look to execute a 27-26 victory.
"It was pretty nervy out there for my first drop-goal attempt as Chris Cusiter chased me and I had to pass the ball on," he said.
"It was down to the lads who got us into that position and then, as a number ten, it is my responsibility to take on the kick. I had done all the practice and I just took it on."
Munster do not have time to dwell on another chapter in their storied European history. Saracens were able to hold off a hard-charging Clermont-Auvergne 20-13 to set up a titanic tussle in Pool 1 next Friday.
"We have got an away win under our belts in a very difficult group. But, we all know you have to win your home games and we have got Saracens at Thomond Park."
The Premiership club showed all their renowned durability and a real killer instinct to bring Clermont to heel at Allianz Park. There was also one point in it when Munster and Saracens met in Limerick in 2000/2001 (31-30) and six points (15-9) two seasons back.
"Hopefully, we can go over there and get another win but we know Munster are an unbelievable team and that Thomond Park is an unbelievable place to play," said Charlie Hodgson.
"We know what a challenge it is going to be but we have moved on since we last played there and we will just have to see how it goes."
Neil Doak's Ulster could not quite replicate Munster's theatrics in the East Midlands, although they did hit back with a beautifully-designed try by Tommy Bowe and another by lock Franco van der Merwe to claw back the losing bonus-point (25-18) in Pool 3.
Doak was visibly deflated at Ulster's failure to function at the set-piece where Rory Best's throwing was a source of weakness.
The tournament mantra that you have to win your home games will come under scrutiny next Saturday when Ulster must outscore champions Toulon at Kingspan Stadium.