Monday 18 December 2017

Munster masterclass recalls best days

Munster's thumping victory over Top 14 heavyweights Toulon had all the characteristics of the province's best European days over the last 10 years.

A 'win or bust' prerogative against highly-rated opponents. A cacophony of noise from a Thomond Park full house determined to play their part in proceedings. And, an overall intensity from the men in red jerseys that totally swamped the opposition, sounding out a war cry that will be heard all over Europe.

Six tries and 45 points make a compelling statement, with Toulon never really threatening to cause a Thomond Park upset -- although Jonny Wilkinson reignited them briefly courtesy of a stupendous drop goal.

Toulon's collection of highly paid overseas stars could not match the pride and ferocity of men driven by the responsibility that goes with representing your home province, while Munster's non-native quartet of Doug Howlett, Paul Warwick, Wian du Preez and Johne Murphy oozed commitment to the cause.

Philippe Saint-Andre knew the score from his torrid experiences here with Sale, and the Toulon supremo was wryly reflective in his analysis.

"It is our first time in the Heineken Cup," said the Toulon coach.

"Next week we play Stade Francais in front of 80,000 people so at the moment, the Top 14 is more important for us."

That did not reflect the impetus that Toulon brought to the first half and it was only when Munster began to batter them into submission at the start of the second that the visitors' body language began to scream, "taxi for the airport".

By the time December and the Ospreys back-to-backs roll around, Munster's Tony McGahan should have something close to a full deck to choose from. For now, the Australian can reflect on an excellent start to the season.

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