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Amlin Challenge Cup: Munster bow out without a whimper

Munster 12 Harlequins 20: “It was inaccuracy, it was concentration, it was a whole number of things,” sighed a dejected Tony McGahan when asked to make sense of his side's humbling defeat against Harlequins on Saturday.

The Munster coach is growing accustomed to semi-final defeats after this fourth successive setback, but they're not getting any easier to accept and particularly so against a Quins side who lie seventh in the English Premiership.

The sun shone around Limerick all afternoon, but this will go down as one of the darker days Thomond Park has experienced.

Only once before in the 16-year history of European Cup rugby had the proud citadel been breached — against the Tigers in 2007 — but, for many, this particular defeat will be more difficult to swallow.

Conor O'Shea's side didn't arrive with any of the same European Cup pedigree boasted by Leicester four seasons ago, yet they bullied Munster from the off and thoroughly deserved their victory.

“It just came down to attitude,” McGahan lamented. “We needed to muscle up around the contact areas. We were beaten at defence of our ball. We were beaten at the breakdown on their ball.

“The way we played, we didn't give ourselves any opportunity whatsoever to get a result.”

In the end, the scoreline flattered a Munster side who, over the course of the 80 minutes, looked a pale shadow of their former selves.

Felix Jones, one of the few home players to impress, replied with a try for his side just before the interval, but the twice Heineken Cup champions failed to score again until the dying embers of the second half, by which stage Quins already had one foot in the final and a Cardiff showdown with Stade Francais

The officiating of referee Roman Poite didn't help Munster's cause, but McGahan knew his problems went deeper than that.

“In different circumstances, I would probably make a comment on that (the referee),” he said.

“But I don't think that it is correct or proper to make any comment given the way that we played... it was like a training run for them at times.”

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