Jack Crowley interview after his drop goal heroics tells you all you need to know
"Happy, now, to be in a final. Yeah."
As Connor Morris was wrapping up a memorable three-question Q&A with Jack Crowley, the 23-year-old fixed him with a grin. "Thank you very much," he replied to Moris wishing him luck in the URC final. "I appreciate it. Thank you."
It was a chat that lasted two minutes and eight seconds but it told you all you needed to know about the Munster star.
Crowley spoke with such clarity, calmness, conviction - as well as respect for Leinster - that it caused you to pause. He had just drove a dagger into Leinster's double hopes, on their home patch, in a huge semi-final with a 78th minute drop goal. To Crowley, it was just a guy doing his job. Fellow Cork native Roy Keane would be proud.
You would think, from the demeanour of his interview, that Crowley had just stepped off the pitch after helping Cork Con to a handy win in the league. It was almost scary how much he carried himself like this is exactly where he belonged.
"Oh, look," he began, "we're in a final. That's where you want to be.
"Haven't registered it yet but have to give credit to Leinster today. All week we knew the respect we had to give them, as a quality side. They're not in the [Champions Cup] final next week for no reason - with the squad and the quality they have. So, we had to give them the utmost respect. You saw what it took out there to even beat them, do you know what I mean? To them, this is their place. It's all due respect to them - they're an unbelievable side and it took all we had to beat them."
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) May 15, 2023
Jack Crowley deflects the praise
It says something about where this Munster side are, and where they are going, that five players aged 25 or younger delivered big to set them up for the 16-15 win.
Gavin Coombes (25) ripped a turnover from Joe McCarthy inside the Munster 22, late in the game, as Leinster were looking to eat the clock with punishing phase after phase. Coombes, again, against Alex Kendellen (22) combined to force a Tom Clarkson knock-on that gave Munster another sniff.
John Hodnett (24) got a last-ditch offload away to Rory Scannell then showed up in a support line, seconds after getting back off the deck. Craig Casey (24) then pumped a great kick to just outside the Leinster 22 that had Nick McCarthy scrambling. When Jack Crowley (23) got the ball back, he flattened Harry Byrne with a bruising carry.
80 seconds later and Munster were in drop goal territory. Casey found Crowley and the Munster 12 made no mistake, evoking the Ronan O'Gara finger wag as he ran back to his own half.
"Yeah, look, the moment itself is something," said Crowley, of the drop goal. "But it's more the seven other minutes before that, that the boys put in. The forwards coming around the corner. The efforts that the backs put in, the 23 [lads] put in. Then you go beyond that to the lads back home and the ones that aren't even on the pitch today.
"Truly, that is what made today. That moment when it went over the bar - that's what you practice for. That's what you are there to do. You have to do that. But it's the effort that the boys put in, far beyond the 23. It's an unbelievable squad effort - both coaching and squad. That's what that meant today. It was more than a moment."
Just to note - this was the first drop goal Jack Crowley has landed in professional rugby since his Munster debut in October 2020. Saturday was his 39th appearance in the pro game [36 for Munster, three Ireland caps]. What a time to do it.
Asked if that result over Leinster had instilled this Munster squad with an extra sense of "belief", Crowley replied, "Oh, belief, you said it. It's there.
"To beat a squad of that quality today, it's everything. We want to be in a final and that's where we are. Just delighted with the effort today but we've next week to train. It's going to be tough competition. But give it our all. We're in a final and that's where you want to be."
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) May 13, 2023
Ronan O'Gara on Jack Crowley
Seeing how Jack Crowley operates, during and after games, makes it no surprise that Ronan O'Gara looked into bringing him to La Rochelle a couple of years ago.
"Jack was one of the ones that he had identified from a long number of years ago," O'Gara told us, late last year.
"I remember having coffee with him and just picking his brain. Jack gets the game very well. He understands everything that's involved with managing a team around the pitch and game-management, which is crucial."
"He was just craving to play [with Munster]," O'Gara added. "For me, when I was starting to play for Munster, I was able to make big mistakes and still get picked the next week. Now, it's got so competitive that it is very hard for young players to have that opportunity to, in succession, mess up! And that's what makes players better, you know?
Ahead of La Rochelle's Champions Cup final against Leinster, this weekend, O'Gara would have appreciated the drop goal, the result and that finger wag.
Leinster have been wounded and now his team have a chance to finish the job.
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
- "Jack had the balls to knock it over, so here we go" - Peter O'Mahony
- "So we’re all just copying Leinster, are we?" - Munster bristle at post-match comments
- Johnny Sexton's most cherished jersey swap shows how seriously he takes his rugby
- The Jacques Nienaber team talk that had Munster players straining at the leash