Munster head coach Tony McGahan says Friday’s win over the Blues could have a massive impact on their season.
The Red Army went into the Round 18 clash with a healthy lead at the top of the Magners League table but McGahan’s men refused to allow any sense of complacency to creep into their game.
And with a challenging run in still to come, including mouth-watering clashes with Leinster, the Scarlets and the Ospreys, McGahan knows victory in Cardiff was a huge boost in the hunt for a home semi final.
“We’ve got important fixtures coming up. We want to get a home semi-final as our number one priority. To get a result away from home certainly paves the way for that with the games in front of us,” said McGahan.
“We know how difficult it is to win away from home in this competition. We were on the receiving end of an away semi final last year and went down 16-6 so we’re well aware of the proceeds that go with a home semi-final.
“Cardiff’s been a really tough place for us to come and get a result – I think 2005 was our last result in a Magners League fixture.
“We played a very good Blues side who are well in contention and were certainly well up for the game in what was a major match for them with regards to the Play-Offs. So to beat a top-quality side away from home was an excellent result.”
James Coughlan scored against the Blues on Friday
Munster were 16-15 winners in the Welsh capital but, in truth, the scoreline could easily have been more comprehensive.
The visitors were the better side for large chunks of the game, with veteran fly-half Ronan O’Gara enduring a rare off day with the boot.
For McGahan, one of the most pleasing aspects of a thoroughly professional performance was the way in which his side gelled despite a two-week lay off and the reintroduction of a whole host of international stars.
“We were bringing a lot of players back into the mix,” added McGahan, who led Munster to Magners League glory in his first season in charge in 2009.
“It’s been two weeks since we played. With the Irish internationals having been out and the remaining contracted players not playing for two weeks, to try and amalgamate that as quickly as we could was pleasing. That aspect in the first half and our defence in the last 20 minutes was excellent.
“We certainly had opportunities in the first half. We had a high tempo to our game but some good scrambling defence from Cardiff and our inability to finish off opportunities kept them in the game at 13-12 going into half time.”
“It’s really important when you’re bringing a lot of players back into the mix to try and get a win in the first week in, whether it’s after the autumn internationals or the Six Nations.
“It’s really important for the squad to have belief in the way that you’re doing things and the way that you’re trying to move forward.
“A win here, especially away from home against a good side, certainly adds to the things that we’re doing and hopefully gives us a good impetus leading into the next few weeks.”
Paul O'Connell was one of a number of returning stars
Next up for Munster is a home tie with bitter rivals Leinster at Thomond Park.
And having lost the last three Magners League encounters with the Dubliners, McGahan and the whole of Munster are desperate to get a result this time around.
McGahan and co currently have a 12-point lead over Saturday’s opponents, as well as third-placed Ulster and the fourth-placed Ospreys, but the Australian insists Munster’s attentions will be on nothing other than their own performances over the next few weeks.
“It always is a massive game. The local derbies always are, especially against Leinster who have been traveling so well in both competitions this year.
“We’re at home but we got turned over 16-15 last year so we’re acutely aware of that danger.
“It certainly means a lot to the Munster supporters and to the Munster organization to make sure we get a result at home.
“The biggest thing for us to continue to concern ourselves with what we’re doing and the standards that we try to meet each week. The table’s there and we’re well aware of it but it’s more important that we try and control ourselves.”