Munster rewarded for years of hard work

British & Irish Lion Ronan O'Gara believes Munster have been rewarded for "seven years of hard work" after fulfilling their destiny by taking the European Cup home to Limerick. [more]

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British & Irish Lion Ronan O’Gara believes Munster have been rewarded for "seven years of hard work" after fulfilling their destiny by taking the European Cup home to Limerick.

Munster experienced repeated setbacks during a punishing ascent to the European rugby summit – two cup final defeats, three-semi-final exits and a couple of quarter-final failures – but it was an expedition they knew could not be aborted.

Fittingly, record European Cup points scorer O’Gara planted the flag in Munster’s rugby Everest by slotting a 74th-minute penalty that meant no way back for French champions Biarritz.

The stirring 23-19 triumph gave Munster’s magnificent supporters – 70,000 of them rocked the Millennium Stadium and created an atmosphere to match Wales’ Grand Slam triumph against Ireland last season – a prize they had dreamt about for so long.

"It is incredible," said O’Gara, whose nerveless goalkicking produced an immaculate five from five return in a feat matched by Biarritz marksman Dimitri Yachvili.

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"I don’t think it will hit us for a few days, but this has all been about seven years of hard work.

"When you manage to get so close to something, and you are denied it, I think that makes your resolve even greater. We just wanted to win so badly."

Agonising Munster memories of previous European final losses to Northampton and Leicester surfaced inside three minutes when Biarritz wing Sereli Bobo rewarded centre Philippe Bidabe’s slashing break by scoring in the corner.

But Munster forged a lead they never lost through tries from South African centre Trevor Halstead and scrum-half Peter Stringer.

Both Munster scores came after Anthony Foley’s bold approach meant a couple of kickable penalties were rejected in favour of establishing threatening field positions.

"We made a bad start, but we regained our composure straightaway, and I think it was a good call when we elected to go for the corner with a couple of penalties," added O’Gara.

"We needed to make a statement. I think you need tries to win finals, and the boys tore into them, with Trevor’s try being the result of our good work-rate."

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