Munster coach Tony McGahan believes yesterday's superb victory over French champions Perpignan is a “starting point” as the province continues its quest for a third Heineken Cup title.
After a difficult start to the season where they have struggled for consistency, Munster were widely written off before the trip to the Syde Aime Giral where Perpignan had lost just twice in 29 European outings.
However, the home side were outplayed in every department with Munster picking up a four-try bonus point which leaves them in control of Pool One ahead of next month’s trip to Treviso and a home game with Northampton.
For McGahan it was a tremendously satisfying outcome, describing the victory as “one of the greatest away wins in Munster's history”, but now the Australian wants to kick on.
“The competition obviously means an awful lot to us and I suppose we've had enough things thrown at us and to come down here and put in a very solid display gives us a lot of confidence, but we need to march on from here and view this as a starting point,” said McGahan.
“You always believe you can come away and achieve any result with this group of players, you don't underestimate their belief, their character and their pride in Munster rugby — you don't doubt that at any point.
“We were under pressure all day and Perpignan certainly asked a lot of questions of our defence out on the edges of both sides of the field. They played with a lot of width but I thought our defence worked really well, we had good space in the line and we worked very hard for each other.”
Paul O'Connell turned in an inspirational performance, typified by a succession of superb kick-off receptions and numerous ball carries and the Munster captain said yesterday's win was a “big step forward” for the team.
“When we play with intensity I think we're a very good side,” said O'Connell.
“When we bring that intensity to our game we can do anything. It doesn't matter how badly you are playing sometimes — if you can play with speed, intensity, high work-rate and a good team spirit, you're always going to be difficult to beat.
“We weren't ever trying to be anything other than the real Munster.
“Sometimes your confidence can go and different things start happening and you start over analysing yourself. Sometimes the harder you try the worse you can get, and I think that happened a little bit with us.
“But I think we found something in the Ulster game, we found something again last week against Perpignan at home, and today a few bits and pieces came together.
“We have a long way to go yet but it was a big step forward for us.”
PERPIGNAN: P Burger; F Sid, D Marty, M Mermoz, C Manas; G Hume, D Mele; J Schuster (P Freshwater 60), M Tincu (G Guirado 60), N Mas (K Pulu 74); O Olibeau, R Tchale-Watchou; Y Vivalda, B Guiry, O Tonita (Y Parent 60). Yellow card: Schuster 48.
MUNSTER: P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi (J de Villiers 61), D Hurley; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; W du Preez, D Fogarty (D Varley 59), J Hayes (T Buckley 66); D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt); A Quinlan (D Ryan 59), D Wallace, D Leamy. Yellow card: O'Gara 52
Referee: D Pearson (England)