Cedric Heymans stood out on the pitch, alone, after all his team-mates had gone back to the dressing-room. As the Munster team began to pay homage to their travelling support, Heymans just stood there looking around him at the 75,000 screaming, red-clad Munster supporters and you could see both recognition and respect. Heymans knew he’d just played the game of his life against great opposition, and there was nothing to regret. He’d put his body on the line for 80 minutes, but what can you do against a team with guts and skill and professionalism and 75,000 travelling red-clad lunatics screaming at you for every one of those 80 minutes?
Nothing. You just stand there and look, and in return receive the respect and admiration of those 75,000 lunatics for being a great member of a great French team.
There was no triumphalism, just pride, and we shook hands with every Toulouse supporter we met.
Merci. Well played.
The two French supporters in front of us stayed until the Munster players had taken the Cup all around the stadium, presenting it to every last one of the travelling Munster horde, and the two Frenchmen applauded with the rest of us. One of them held his phone up to the crowd for somebady back home to hear.
The Welshman sitting next to me was in tears.
I thought you were neutral, I said.
I was, he replied.
Bullet looked stoic and stared straight ahead but his eyes glistened and he wore that tight little smile that tells me he’s holding them back. I hugged him again.
I never thought I’d see something more intense than the 2006 final, but I saw it on Saturday. I have never in all my life experienced anything as extreme, as frenetic, as nakedly crazy as the sight and the sound of those 75,000 screaming red Munster supporters willing their team to hold out for those last ten minutes. Willing, and demanding and screaming and cursing and singing and waving and howling and jumping up and down and holding their hands over their eyes and shouting and singing and screaming.
I have never seen the like.
This is better than the Grand Slam, said the Welshman and I think I believed him.
Cardiff went crazy. There was Limerick on the giant screen. Limerick people back home going nuts as they watched the game on their own giant screens in the street. Our friends at home. The stadium went even crazier. Bananas. People crying. People hugging. People standing silently with their eyes shut.
Never in all my days have I experienced the like of it, nor probably ever will again.
I’ll bring you pictures when I get home, but for now, keep the faith and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.