The wait is over. After 12 long years, Munster are champions again, and it's hard to think of a title harder earned.

From Cape Town to Durban, from Glasgow to Dublin, and back to Cape Town again, the province have dug out one of the most unlikely championship wins.

After all the near misses and should haves and could haves, their fourth BKT United Rugby Championship title is the one they were never meant to win, and that will only make the victory sweeter.

Graham Rowntree’s side did it the hard way; from their five defeats in seven games to start the season, to their unstoppable run to this title, which has seen them play away from Thomond Park since the end of March.

Even in this game, they needed to play every minute of the 80 to dethrone the defending champions.

On Friday, the Munster boss said they never do things the easy way, and those words rang true this evening. Hodnett’s try, five minutes from time, was the decisive score, while Jack Crowley’s conversion from the touchline summed up a starring performance from the out-half.

Crowley was one of the leaders in the victory, closely followed by Conor Murray, Calvin Nash and Shane Daly, with the four players combining for a wonderful display of kicking and pressure, which the Stormers never truly dealt with.

The defending champions had got off to a flier with a Manie Libbok try on five minutes, but by half-time Munter were unlucky to be just 12-7 ahead, as Diarmuid Barron and Nash scored tries in a dominant first-half performance.

When the Stormers hit back in the second half to go 14-13 in front, the Munster bodies appeared to be tiring, and just as it did in their semi-final win against Leinster, it looked like their chance would pass.

But this team have showed in recent months that they don’t follow the script everyone else has seen, and after Gavin Coombes won them the ball back with a block-down, Hodnett finished off a sustained period of pressure to send them in front.

There was still time to defend though as the Stormers chased an equalising, or even winning score, only for Munster to hold them out with a decisive maul stop, delivering a first piece of silverware since 2011.

Munster were keen to get width on the ball in the early stages, with Crowley, Fekitoa and Frisch all looking to move play across the pitch and stretch the defence. However they were made to pay on five minutes when Frisch overplayed his hand.

It was a great defensive read by Ruhan Nel that met the centre behind the gainline, and Frisch threw a risky wide pass while falling, which landed kindly for the onrushing Libbok, who sprinted in under the posts to score before converting to make it 7-0.

Munster's response was instant and excellent. After Nel conceded an offside penalty in midfield, Crowley drilled the ball into the corner, before a powerful maul forced yet another penalty.

On the second go, Tadhg Beirne took the lineout before their maul curled back down the blindside, and it was Barron – who scored twice when the sides met here in April – who got the decisive touchdown.

Crowley’s conversion pulled to the right and wide, with the Stormers still 7-5 in front after 12 minutes.

Munster had settled well though, and two inch-perfect box-kicks from Murray, both well-chased by Daly, put them back on the attack, before a cutting linebreak from Crowley brought them close to the line, forcing the Stormers to stray offside which brought up a yellow card to No 8 Evan Roos.

The visitors couldn’t make the penalty count though, Coombes initially thinking he’d scored their second try before replays showed a second movement from him on the ground, handing a penalty back to the Stormers.

Munster were dominant, with Murray in particular constantly putting his team in the right areas of the pitch with his kicking, but as the first half ticked along they remained behind on the scoreboard, and saw a second try chalked off when Mike Haley’s score was correctly disallowed after a forward pass by Peter O’Mahony in the build-up.

On 29 minutes, they deservedly hit the front, and this time there was no doubting the score.

With the Stormers defending narrow, Crowley dotted a gorgeous crossfield kick out to Nash, who was lurking on the right wing. The ball bounced kindly for the Munster man and less so for the Stormers’ Leolin Zas who over ran it and slipped, allowing Nash cruise in to score their second try which Crowley converted to make it 12-7.

Munster had owned the ball for the opening 35 minutes, but it was their defence that saw them bring their lead into half-time, particularly after losing O’Mahony to injury.

Coombes and Murray gave up penalties which brought the Stormers deep into the 22, but a water-tight maul defence saw the visitors bring their five-point buffer into the break.

The hosts were further frustrated two minutes into the second half when Libbok sent a penalty kick wide, but Munster's indiscipline was inviting further pressure, leading to a Haley yellow card on 48 minutes, having tackled Angelo Davids off the ball.

Another penalty followed – the fourth Munster conceded in the nine minutes of the second half – and the Stormers eventually made them pay, with Fourie touching down from the back of a maul, before Libbok’s conversion from the right of the posts sent the defending champions back in front at 14-12.

Just like in the first half, Munster’s kicking game off Murray and Crowley, and the chase from Daly and Nash was causing the Stormers problems, and after getting field position the province won a penalty five metres out, and 15 metres in from the left touchline on 55 minutes.

Crowley turned down a shot at goal in favour of the corner, but they handed the ball right back to the hosts with a penalty for obstruction at the lineout, the second such time they’d been caught for that offence.

Both sides were starting to tire as we hit the 60-minute mark, with Daly almost getting caught out by his own tryline, and just seconds later it was Libbok of the Stormers who took his eye off the ball to almost allow Munster to break away.

It was still a one-score game, but the home side were playing it in the right places, controlling possession in the Munster half as the visitors’ tackle count grew and grew, Ben Healy in particular making a crucial stop on Roos close to the touchline.

On 74 minutes, they finally got the break they needed, and once again they had their kick-chase to thank. Libbok stalled too long as he tried to deal with the ball in his own 22, allowing a diving Coombes block the ball down as it fell on the Munster side.

Phase after phase followed, before a hard line by Beirne drew the Stormers defence in narrow, allowing Crowley to spray the ball wide. The out-half's pass found Haley who whipped it to Daly on the touchline, and the wing flicked the ball back inside to Hodnett, who was never going to be stopped from close range.

That try put Munster three ahead, and Crowley had a lot to do with the conversion, just a couple of yards in from the left touchline, but the Corkman was nerveless as he stroked the ball between the posts to make it 19-14, with less than five minutes left.

On 78 minutes, Crowley found himself sent to the sin-bin, yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on as the Stormers chased the try they needed, but this was Munster’s night, and they did enough halt a final maul to bring up the final whistle, and that long-awaited trophy.

Stormers: Damian Willemse; Angelo Davids, Ruhan Nel, Dan du Plessis, Leolin Zas; Manie Libbok, Herschel Jantjies; Steven Kitshoff (capt), Joseph Dweba, Frans Malherbe; Marvin Orie, Ruben van Heerden; Deon Fourie, Hacjivah Dayimani, Evan Roos.

Replacements: JJ Kotze, Ali Vermaak, Neethling Fouche, Ben-Jason Dixon, Willie Engelbrecht, Marcel Theunissen, Paul de Wet, Clayton Blommetjies.

Munster: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Shane Daly; Jack Crowley, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O'Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, RG Snyman, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Keith Earls.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR)

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