LIMERICK // The New Zealand "rookies" had to dig deep to edge a thrilling match against Munster, and All Blacks coach Graham Henry is glad they had such a tough test. "Our team are young guys and it was a good experience for them, very good for their rugby development. To be under that kind of pressure [and win] is immense for them," Henry said.
"They will have learned a lot playing in that kind of atmosphere." The Irish province came desperately close to recording a shock victory, 30 years after a Tom Kiernan-coached Munster side stunned the All Blacks 12-0 at the same Thomond Park venue. But the Heineken Cup champions, short of 10 their first-choice players due to Ireland's autumn Tests, leaked a crucial 76th-minute try from Joe Rokocoko that got the tourists out of jail.
Munster included four New Zealanders in their squad and before the kick off Doug Howlett, Rua Tipoki, Lifeimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning threw down the gauntlet by performing their own four-man haka before the All Blacks could respond. "It shows the spirit of the Munster team and the geographic area it represents. It was nice to have a win but I think the occasion was more important," Henry admitted. "I think we played a lot of the rugby. We tried to be constructive most of the time. It was a very young, inexperienced All Black side.
"It was one of those games where we just had to hang in and hope we could score a winning try. But we had opportunities." Munster captain for the night Mick O'Driscoll said: "We possibly deserved more from the game. To lose by two points to probably the best side in the world with 10 or 11 players missing, you would probably take it." The coach Tony McGahan said: "The guys should keep the result and be immensely proud of the way they played. We were still in it until the 60th or 70th minute."