CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Munster’s success against the odds in the United Rugby Championship at the weekend was hailed for its character and the resilience shown after weeks on the road.
The Irish province dethroned defending champions Stormers in front of some 56,000 home fans at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday to win the final 19-14 for their first major success in a decade.
It came despite a horror start to the season and having to play six successive away games in the closing stages of the URC, including their quarter- and semi-final and the final itself.
"I spoke extensively about this being our sixth game away from home, 'Can we do this?',” said coach Graham Rowntree after the dramatic victory.
"The places we've gone, the performances we've put in. We haven't been perfect, we're still growing our game but we always stick in the game. We’ve had some adversity.
"I'm unbelievably proud of everyone who's involved in this prestigious club that is Munster Rugby."
Munster had lost five of their first seven games in the URC regular season but eventually finished fifth in the standings, booking a place in the last eight but without the prospect of a home fixture in the knockout stages.
They last played at Thomond Park in Limerick in April followed by an away odyssey that included four games in South Africa, success in Glasgow, a shock win over top ranked Leinster in Dublin in the URC semi-final and then Saturday’s win, where John Hodnett’s try four minutes from time sealed their victory.
"I'm delighted for the whole of the province and its people,” added Rowntree, who took over as Munster coach at the start of the season.
"The current champions, in their home stadium in front of 50,000-odd fans. It was going to take a big game from us and it was a question of sticking in the game.
"Things didn't go all our own way, there was some big moments in the game that went against us but when you get hit, hit back again and recover.”
It was a fourth title for Munster, who last won the competition in 2011 when it was known as the Celtic League and involved clubs from Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
It was rebranded to the URC when four South African franchises were included last year. The Stormers won at their first attempt in 2022.
(Editing by Hugh Lawson)