If you ask young rugby fans what kind of player they'd like to be when they grow up, I doubt there's many who would say their wish was to be a “quality impact sub”.
Yet as Sean Cronin demonstrated at the Stade de la Mosson, in the modern game that can be one of the most important roles in a squad. I would still select Richardt Strauss over the former Connacht hooker every time, but his grit and determination to get over the line showed he has much to offer in that number 16 jumper.
Would I have been happy with a draw before the match? Absolutely not. But was I happy with it afterwards? Absolutely so. And although it wasn't exactly a classic display from the reigning champions, I'm not as concerned as perhaps I should be.
My contention is that if your problems lie on the offensive side of the game, they can be fixed a lot easier than if your defence isn't up to scratch. And it's hard to argue that we had pretty good control of things defensively on Saturday.
Just look at the try Montpellier scored. It happened after a breakdown of an attack of ours deep in their half when our defence wasn't anywhere near set. For the rest of the contest, even with the gargantuan Gorgodzilla in full flow, the French outfit were unable to seriously threaten our line.
So what was going wrong on the offensive side of things? Well for one thing it was hardly Isaac Boss' best outing. It's a shame for him in that he thoroughly earned his starting position but considering the quality of his competition you have to think that Reddan will start next Sunday against Glasgow. The box kicks weren't working, the ball was going unprotected after the tackle too often, it was just a bad day at the office for Boss, but he'll be back.
Another selection that didn't work out was Damien Browne. I understand that he has experience playing in France but I'm not altogether sure that's what was needed. Devin Toner has been impressive in the Pro12 and once he came on we absolutely terrorized the Montpellier line-outs.
Honourable mention should go to our back three, particularly Luke Fitzgerald. The Sky commentators fixated on his missed tackle on Nagusa but that was a harsh way of looking at it – first, the former Ulster winger was deep in his own 22 plus Luke got enough of him to allow the rest of the defence to set and he didn't really get much further. Overall I thought Fitzgerald had a sound display and is well on the road back to his best.
Brief paragraph on the ref – many give out about Dave Pearson and it's true he's hardly the best out there, but I really don't think he played a part in the actual result, even though the French TV director seemed to differ with his incessant replays of missed forward passes. Funny how the replay machine was broken when it seemed to be a Montpellier transgression!
You don't think I've forgotten about a certain Mr Sexton I hope! Well much like his last-minute effort that sealed the draw, I'm going to deal with him last. The only mark against him the way I saw it was that he went for the complex back-line manoeuvres a bit too often. It's a powerful weapon and when used at the right time will do some serious damage, but it seemed at times that it was confusing our players as much as it was the opposition, and that can't be good.
But what about that final kick? Follow this link to see the YouTube clip. As if the pressure from the match situation and the booing of the crowd wasn't enough, I doubt the sight of his own face on the big screen perfectly framed by the goalposts didn't help, yet he struck it true. And let's not forget his conversion of the Cronin try which was even closer to the touchline. They were all world-class placekicks and there were even question marks over the one he missed – we either need to allow coaches request a TMO or just get higher goalposts in those situations.
All in all you have to be happy to come away from a French trip with something, although if Leinster are to be seriously considering a return to glory in this competiton, they'll need a convicing win next Sunday to get back on track. If you fancy a flutter, you could do a lot worse than back Mr Cronin for another try off the bench in the process.
Elsewhere in Europe...
All the mainstream headlines will be taken by “that” finish down at Thomond, so just for divilment allow me to start this mini-roundup elsewhere, namely Leinster's Pool Three, where Glasgow delivered a fairytale ending of their own thanks to the Bath defence falling asleep after Duncan Weir's last-gasp drop goal effort. For me, that's a good result for Leinster in that should we defeat the Scots next weekend at the RDS, given that the French rarely travel well we could be the only side in the pool with a duck-egg in the loss column after two games.
And if the Irish headlines weren't about Munster, they'd probably be about Connacht instead so again I'm going to be different and offer props to the Ulstermen at Ravenhill for sticking it to their critics (myself included) by seeing off their illustrious visitors. It was a monumental performance and Stephen Ferris showed that had he been available last April Leinster's Heineken Cup final opponents may well have been different.
Now for the Connacht men. Didn't they do themselves proud? Sure, they gave away too many silly penalties but given the formbook going into the match for that to be their top complaint is quite the achievement. I'm telling you, however many stars are on their crest, Toulouse won't have things their own way in Galway next weekend, that's for sure!
Let's not forget the Leinster A lads led by Dominic Ryan, who secured themselves a comfortable bonus-point win in Esher to kickoff their B&I Cup campaign. Seemingly outhalf Noel Reid was impressive with the boot and I'll be looking forward to seeing them in action next Saturday in Donnybrook against Melrose.
Last and certainly not least, that amazing finish at Thomond. No doubt my blue blood will be cited for what I'm about to say, but I really do believe too much is being made of this “41 phases” craic. In fact, the way I see it, you're actually doing Munster a dis-service if you show surprise that they can retain possession that many times against an opposition that is doing absolutely nothing to compete after the tackle. For me, the amazing thing about that finish was the O'Gara drop goal itself – an absolutely heroic effort for sure. But Tony McGahan's men need to show they can win on the road in this competition again and when you take the 80 minutes of Saturday evening's match they'll have their work cut out to get full points from their three trips in that pool. The final match in January against the Saints in Milton Keynes could well decide their fate.
Great to have the HCup back, innit? JLP
Great to have the HCup back, innit? JLP