They admitted they’d got a few important things wrong but the DHL Stormers leadership duo of John Dobson and Steven Kitshoff were both adamant Munster were deserved new Vodacom United Rugby Champions after their team surrendered their title in dramatic fashion in a tight final played in front of more than 56 000 spectators.
The Stormers looked like they had got out of jail to win the game after being under the kosh for the entire first half and were leading 14-12 and looking to close the game out when they conceded the try that enabled Munster to complete a stunning turnaround that started when they were 14th on the log before Christmas and included a successful run of six away games at the end.
“I saw it as a game of two halves, with Munster being superb in the first half,” said coach Dobson.
“They put us under enormous pressure on defence and it was easily our worst defensive half (of the season) but only because of how good Munster were. In the second half we were nano-seconds away from winning the game as one more score would have made it safe.
“Munster thoroughly deserved their win and what they have achieved in winning playoff games away is really special and shows what a fine team they are. But I did feel I got something wrong. On that field, which was really bad today, maybe it was naive of me not to change our game plan to suit the conditions.
“But the fight Munster had was unbelievable. I genuinely believe that while we came so close they deserved to win that game and are deserved champions.”
Our team gave it everything and pushed until the final whistle, but it was not to be. Congrats to Munster on a great win. #STOvMUN #iamastormer #dhldelivers @Vodacom #URC #UnitedWeRise pic.twitter.com/Tdkvu5mFcs— DHL Stormers (@THESTORMERS) May 27, 2023
PLAYED OUT OF THEIR SKINS
Skipper Kitshoff, who was given a rousing ovation as he left the field for the last time before moving to Munster next year, said that Munster played out of their skin and that his team had done well to hang in the game when the pressure was being piled on them.
“Munster played out of their skin and had two disallowed tries. They could have been much further ahead at halftime and in the first half we got caught up in the moment,” said the Springbok prop.
“We were really scrapping to stay in the game in the first half and we were out on our feet at some stages of the game. But it was a game of two halves in the sense that in the second half it was them that were scrapping to stay in the game.”
MUNSTER’S REFUSAL TO DIE SHONE THROUGH AGAIN
Munster did well to come back and win the game when it appeared the momentum had gone completely against them so it was unsurprising that their coach Graham Rowntree and experienced forward Tadhg Beirne, who ended the game as captain due to an injury to Peter O’Mahony, both paid tribute to their team’s refusal to die when the odds were stacked against them.
“It was incredible, we had a scrum on the halfway line and I said to the guys we will get a chance and when it comes we must take it,” said Irish international Beirne.
“Gavin (Coombes) made an unbelievable blockdown and then John (Hodnett) did superbly to go over for the try. We showed unbelievable fight to stop the Stormers around one of their biggest assets.”
Rowntree was understandably full of smiles and spoke of his emotion at the final whistle.
“The big message here is the ability we showed to stick in the game (when it started to go against us),” said Rowntree.
“It was a real feeling of elation, it was very emotional, it was a huge moment for the club, for the players and the fans, a very special moment and from a very special group. Peter (skipper O’Mahoney) has been one of those waiting for a long time and I am immensely proud of him and the playing group, as well as the red army of fans that followed us here. There was an army of fans waiting for us outside when we arrived here.
“We are very proud of what we have done. We have done it tough. This was our sixth game away from home in a row. To come and do this, the performances that we have put in without being completely perfect, showed through at the end there.”
Rowntree admitted that he was disappointed that his team weren’t a lot further than five points up (12-7) at halftime.
“I thought we were very good. We set out to blunt their threats with our phase attack, we tried to make them work a lot, and I was really disappointed we didn’t go in 19 points up. We had to keep the ball, which was a challenge on a pitch like that. We were up against a great team led by a really great coach and it was going to take a big game from us.
“It was a case of sticking in the game. It didn’t go all our own way. There were big momentum swings. But what we learned is the ability under pressure away from home to stick in there and recover. We have become very battle hardened and that showed tonight.”