'JJ would be disappointed himself but he shouldn't be... He had a class performance' 8 months ago

'JJ would be disappointed himself but he shouldn't be... He had a class performance'

Watching that Munster vs. Racing match on your TV, you might have asked yourself why the home side did not just keep pressing for a try.

We were in the 78th minute of a captivating Champions Cup encounter between two of the top sides in Europe and while the eyes of most TV viewers would have been on the Munster forwards pounding through phases, thousands at Thomond Park were watching JJ Hanrahan like a hawk.

The Munster forwards had throttled their way into the Racing 22 for the second time in five minutes and would have backed themselves to get the breakthrough. With no try-scoring bonus point available, though, a penalty or drop goal would do it.

Munster had come back from 14-6 and 21-14 down to level the match going into the final minutes. They had all the momentum behind them but, Munster being Munster, the eyes were fixated on the 10. And so it went...

When was Hanrahan going to drop in the pocket? Why was Hanrahan not dropping in the pocket? He's in the pocket, pass it to him! Where has Hanrahan gone? How much time is left? He's dropped back! Give it to him!

There was still time on the clock but the Munster forwards had their field positioning down. They were straight in front of the posts so Hanrahan, just inside the 22, was in a great position.

The Racing players seemed to accept their fate. Only Teddy Iribaren charged headlong and flung himself towards the Munster outhalf. Fineen Wycherley did a fine job at blocking Teddy Baubigny and Henry Chavancy.

Hanrahan had his chance and he took his shot:

(Credit: Sportsfile)

It was not even a close miss. The kick hooped left and wide and the Racing players celebrated. They had nearly blown it, but they now had a restart and could yet win a match that for so long looked their's for the taking.

They retained possession from the kick-off and caused a few palpitations before knocking on and leaving the match end in a draw. Two points apiece but a strange feeling at the end. Exhaustive pride but no elation.

Following the game, Munster captain Peter O'Mahony was full of praise for Hanrahan after he recovered from a recent hamstring injury to take his side to the brink of victory.

"Around 50 minutes we shouldn't have been next to or near a draw and then with 10 minutes to go, we could have won it. I don't think we played well enough to win the game, to be totally honest with you. We played some very good rugby but some mental lapses defensively cost you against teams like that.

"I thought they played really well and we played some really good rugby as well but overall, it probably flattered us a bit getting the draw with the way they played and the overall way we played. That would be my gut feeling."

"Yeah," O'Mahony added, "JJ's back from an injury and [puts in] an 80-minute performance. He kicked an incredible conversion to get us two points... they're pressure kicks, you know? That fella trains harder than anyone.

"He'd be disappointed himself after but he shouldn't be. I thought he had a class performance and that conversion was certainly out of the top drawer."

Hanrahan kicked 11 points, set up Conway's late try and had 61 metres in gains off 12 carries. He is good but great sometimes seems agonisingly out of reach. He was close to a lovely try on the 34th minute but knocked on, under pressure from Simon Zebo, and then hooked that late drop goal attempt.

Munster are placing faith in him, however, and there are plenty of chances to reach greatness in the coming weeks and months.


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Barry Murphy and Andrew Trimble are joined by Jerry Flannery in the House of Rugby studio to look back on a winning weekend of Champions Cup rugby, and the imperious form of Leinster.