Munster head coach Rob Penney was a relieved man following their five try 29-6 win over Racing Metro in Thomond Park on Sunday.
The bonus point victory over their Parisian opponents ensured Munster progress to the quarter final stage and condemn near rivals Leinster to the Amlin Challenge cup, which is sure to be of some delight to the southern provinces supporters.
Munster started slowly but tries from Conor Murray, Mike Sherry and a Simon Zebo hat-trick ensured their progression to the quarter finals.
Penney spoke of his relief and delight as Munster progressed in the competition but was keen to stress he would have been happy regardless of the result.
“Look, if we hadn’t, obviously people would be in the long grass and there would be a lot of bullets being fired,” he said.
“I would still be very proud of the progress and the areas of growth that we’re getting, but I would have had to put on the flak jacket and the hard hat probably (if we lost). I really believe in this team and the direction in which it is going.”
Munster now face a tough trip to The Stoop to face Harlequins with the winners to face either Clermont Auvergne or Montpellier away in the semi final stage. Penny’s side have had an up and down season, struggling with form and injuries but the New Zealander believes his squad has improved as the season as gone on.
“We had Racing [in round one] done and dusted. We had a try and it went to the TMO and the ball was lost and the game sort of turned on its head at that point for some reason,” Penney stated in the Irish Examiner.
“We got ourselves back and I think we could have ripped that game away from them. Then I think we had an incident with two minutes to go when we were in front but conceded two penalties and we didn’t win.
“However, I think the seeds were set in terms of the potential of the group.
“What I’ve tried to explain is that we’ve seen a massive growth in some of the guys that haven’t had a lot of exposure every week, even when the results haven’t gone for us there are great things happening within the group.
“We’re seeing this as a management group. You could say it has set the seed but it’s still only germinating. We’ve only been at this for six months and we’re really proud of where we’re getting to.”
Penney will be hopeful that long term injury victims Paul O’Connell, CJ Stander and Sean Dougal will be available for the Heineken cup quarter final in April.
Meanwhile James Coughlan, Damien Varley, Mike Sherry and Tommy O’Donnell have been added to Ireland’s training squad for the upcoming six nation’s squad following impressive displays recently in the Heineken cup.