Munster’s URC win is for Red Army and people we’ve lost, says ‘immensely proud’ Graham Rowntree after Stormers win

Munster celebrate winning the United Rugby Championship. Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Munster celebrate winning the United Rugby Championship. Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published May 28, 2023


Cape Town – Munster coach Graham Rowntree said that he was “unbelievably proud” for everyone involved with the team after they did the almost unthinkable and beat the Stormers 19-14 to clinch the United Rugby Championship title at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night.

The defending champions were roared on by a record crowd of 56 334, but they were met with fierce resistance by a determined Munster team who outsmarted them tactically and through better execution to secure a well-deserved victory.

It is Munster’s first piece of major silverware in 12 years, having won this tournament in its previous Magners League format in 2011 – and what made the achievement even more impressive is the fact that they played their last six matches away from home.

They lost 50-35 to the Sharks in Durban in the Champions Cup round of 16, but followed it up with a 26-24 URC win over the Stormers in Cape Town, a 22-22 draw against the Sharks at Kings Park, a 14-5 quarter-final victory over Glasgow in Scotland and a 16-15 triumph over Leinster in Dublin – and then finished off in style with the trophy in South Africa on Saturday night.

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The Irish province led 12-7 at halftime, with scrumhalf Conor Murray’s excellent box-kicks piling the pressure on the Stormers, while their forwards climbed into the breakdowns to win the physical battle upfront – despite losing inspirational captain Peter O’Mahony before halftime to a head knock.

Munster were also outstanding in defence to withstand a second-half onslaught from the Stormers, and they were rewarded with the match-winning try by Man of the Match, flank John Hodnett, in the 75th minute.

“It’s elation for me, head in my hands. It’s emotional – I’m not going to lie – at the end there. A huge moment for the club, the players. The fans have been very patient in waiting for this trophy. We’ve lost some special people in that time, and Pete (O’Mahony) spoke wonderfully about it at the end there – this is for the people we’ve lost over the years (such as former coach Anthony Foley),” former English prop Rowntree said in the post-match press conference on Saturday night.

“This is a special group. Some older players have waited patiently – Pete being one of those – to win a trophy. I am immensely proud of this group, and delighted for the whole of the province – the people who were here now, the playing group, the families back home, the kids watching, the supporters in the province.

“The Red Army that followed us here… unbelievable. We drove into the stadium today, and there was a Red Army of flags waiting for us on the road outside. So, I’m delighted for those people. We did it for them.

“In the game itself, proud of the lads. We’ve done it tough. Spoke extensively yesterday about our sixth game away from home… To come and do this?

“The places we’ve gone, the performances we’ve put in, without being perfect – we are still growing our game, which I keep saying.

“But we always stick in the game, and we showed that at the end there, against some adversity. I’m unbelievably proud for everyone that’s involved with this prestigious club that is Munster Rugby.”

Lock Tadhg Beirne praised his team for keeping their composure even after Deon Fourie scored in the 50th minute and Manie Libbok’s conversion put the Stormers 14-12 in front.

“We had a scrum on the halfway line, and I turned to the forwards and said ‘We will get one chance… just stay in it’, and Gav (Coombes, No 8) got an unbelievable block there and we got it, and everyone stuck to the game-plan and worked incredibly hard for John (Hodnett) to get over – it was massive,” Beirne said.

“We did ask the boys to leave the rucks for the last 10 minutes! I don’t think the backs listened too carefully to me, but it was an incredible fight to stop a team like the Stormers around one of their strongest assets in terms of the maul.

“To just keep them out there at the end was unbelievable fight by everyone.

“(Rowntree) has touched on everything: what this means to the club, and particularly to the fans. They’ve waited a long, long time for this, and to see the amount of times that they have come out here and spend hard-earned money to support us – to watch that is incredible.

“We spoke about the Red Army, the fans, on the way in, and were in disbelief about it. So, that drove us on and gave us an extra edge today.

“The older lads especially who have been here – Earlsy, Archie, Pete – they’ve waited a long, long time for this.

“It’s incredible for the club, for the whole squad, and not just the lads who were out there today, but the boys who didn’t get selected today and have put in incredible shifts.

“It’s unbelievable, and it’s not going to hit us yet. When it does, it’s going to be a hell of a feeling.”


Stormers 14 – Tries: Manie Libbok, Deon Fourie. Conversions: Libbok (2).

Munster 19 – Tries: Diarmuid Barron, Calvin Nash, John Hodnett. Conversions: Jack Crowley (2).