There’s a certain mentality a rugby player must adopt when preparing for a crucial cup game.
A realm in which there are no second chances in a weeks’ time, knockout ties require players to steel themselves for 80 minutes of giving absolutely everything.
‘Leaving it all on the pitch’, ‘emptying the tank’, ‘having no regrets in the performance’; these are the key goals for any individual when heading into such an important game (well, apart from winning, obviously).
So one can imagine the collective bemusement when both the Munster and Toulouse players realised there would be another 20 minutes of slugging it out before a winner could be declared.
Finally, after a bruising extra-time plus a lesser-spotted rugby penalty shootout, the French team claimed victory at the Aviva Stadium.
But this games joined that exclusive set of rugby matches that needed extra-time to decide a result.
One such game was the 2001 Heineken Shield final between Harlequins and Narbonne.
Former Ireland captain Keith Wood was part of the Quins side that eventually won on the day.
On Wednesday Night Rugby, Wood recounted the exhaustion and confusion of the one occasion he played extra-time during his entire career.
‘It was 30 minutes for extra-time then’, Wood recalled, ‘15 minutes each half.’
‘I had been out injured for six weeks, came and played the 80 minutes - which doesn’t happen any more - and then in the 1st minute of extra-time, I went to openside flanker for the half-hour.’
‘I didn’t recognise anybody at the end of the game; I’d say it took me about four weeks to get over it.’
Wood believes that weariness was visible in both sets of players at the Aviva on Saturday.
‘You were looking at players operating in slow-motion last week,’ he added.
‘I read a few things, with some of the criticism about the decision-making and the mistakes.’
‘The level of fatigue that sets in at that stage is unbelievable.’
‘I’m not so sure I agree with extra-time in rugby. [The game] needs a result, but I think the level of risk for injury becomes very, very high.’
Wood: 'It was the first time in a long time that I had butterflies in my stomach'
That said, Wood was a massive fan of the ensuing penalty shootout.
‘I thought they were unbelievably exciting - it was the first time in a long time that I had butterflies in my stomach watching the game.’
‘They were extraordinary - not if you’re a Munster fan, of course - but it was unbelievable television!’
‘But it was also nerve-wracking, it was a nerve-wracking game. All the kicks at the end - when Ben Healy had that kick from 50-60 metres out - it just brought back all of the reasons you’re interested in sport.’
‘It was nerve-wracking because… [if it] goes over, everything is perfect, and if it doesn’t, there’s dread because there’s another 20 minutes.’
‘I thought it was a phenomenal, exciting occasion.’
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