Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Hero O’Gara hails Munster’s mettle

Ronan O'Gara believes Munster's march into the Heineken Cup semi-finals proves their obituary had been written too soon.

The 2006 and 2008 champions faced questions over whether they are a fading force in European rugby in the build-up to Saturday's showdown with Northampton at Thomond Park.

But they responded with an emphatic 33-19 victory, inspired by O'Gara, to set up a last-four appointment with Biarritz next month.

“It's a different competition and that's the key point. This is our competition which we thrive on and we love,” said the Ireland fly-half (pictured right with Lifeimi Mafi). “Look at our record in it — we have consistently produced and that's a fact. It's not up for dispute.

“Now we're in a semi-final and we're knocking on the door once again. That's what pleases me so much — that consistency year to year.”

Munster had lost just once at Thomond Park in 15 years of European rugby but Saints were convinced they could put a dent in that proud record. Upping the ante for an ageing team that cherishes the Heineken Cup above all else was the previous weekend's home defeat by fierce rivals Leinster — a result that hinted they could be in decline.

“It was a huge game for us. We were under pressure because we were coming into the match on the back of a defeat,” said O'Gara. “We put a lot of effort into Leinster but came up short. After that you're never too sure what will happen. What's most pleasing is that we have a cup mentality that brings out the best in us.

Doug Howlett crossed for two tries while Paul Warwick and Jean de Villiers also touched down, but it was O'Gara's day.

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