Saturday, October 04, 2014

Leinster A-8 Munster A-18


The setting was nigh on perfect - bright sun in the sky, maybe a bit colder than we've been used to of late but hardly the depths of winter, and of course we had the brand spanking new synthetic pitch at old Leinster HQ.

With the British & Irish Cup kickoff just a week away, these two A sides played a scrappy contest where they cancelled each other out in pretty much every aspect of the game except one crucial one, the scrum, and this proved to be the difference.

Neither side was able to establish a rhythm in the early stages, and for Leinster in particular this wasn't helped by our backs falling like ninepins.

First Collie O'Shea, then Tom Daly and finally what looked like a suspected concussion for Cathal Marsh meant we lost our starting 10, 12 and 13.  Jordan Coghlan's return to blindside flanker was very brief as he was back at inside centre before the halftime whistle.

Munster probably had the edge in the first half but were unable to capitalise on a yellow card to Sean McCarthy for repeated scrum infringements, and the sides went in 3-3 at the break.

But the second period was barely a minute old when Munster's tight eight absolutely munched their opposition and this was to set the tone for the second half.

It was as though Mick O'Driscoll's men had a checklist of ways to dominate the set-piece and were diligently working their way through it.  Front row penalty, wheeling turnover, all-out shove off the ball on Leinster's feed; you name it, Munster probably did it, and it was to lead indirectly to both of their tries.

The first came after a scrum penalty produced a booming kick from his own half by number 10 David Johnston which gave them a lineout on Leinster's 5m line - the home defence held out for a while but eventually it was openside Barry O'Mahony who got over the line.

From the restart Leinster to our credit came back at them but when our attacks ended in knockons, the resultant scrums were only going one way; in fact, even when we knew we had the put in we did our best to use the advantage rule to the fullest.

At the 56 minute mark another scrum won by Munster saw them kick the ball forward into the Leinster 22.  Substitute Rory O'Loughlin seemed to have loads of time to judge the catch but he let it bounce and the high hop completely flummoxed him allowing Munster to recover and winger Luke O'Dea went over to put the match beyond our reach.

Once more Leinster tried to respond and I felt the visitors could have gotten a yellow card for a second penalty conceded within 5m of their own line, but they retained their full complement.  Although Ross Byrne finally crossed after a couple of "held up" calls, at that stage it was only going to be a consolation and Munster deservedly ran out winners.

It wouldn't be fair to say we were poor, however.  For the most part our defence was steady enough - locks Denton & Thonbury made some strong tackles and there were a good try-saving tackle made out wide by scrumhalf Nick McCarthy.

Plus in wingers Sam Coghlan-Murray and Adam Byrne it seemed we always had at least another score in us...sadly for both of them neither had chances set for them, with Byrne missing out the most after a (to be fair excellent) burst from deep by fullback Cian Kelleher, he had a perfect moment to put in the pacy winger but chose to go it alone and fell short of the line.  The Munster scramble defence did the rest.

Stand out names on the team sheet were Richardt Strauss and Donncha O'Callaghan.  Neither stood out on the pitch it has to be said; Strauss was only on for the first half as part of his rehab and if fit will probably take part in the trip to Zebre next weekend.

Despite all the injuries in the Leinster A backline, I'm pretty sure Luke McGrath wasn't sent on the pitch at any stage so perhaps either Reddan or Boss are waiting on a fitness test for the main event later this evening.

On the new pitch, well it looks amazing and although there were a couple of slip-ups by the players it never really affected the play I thought.  We will see the benefits as the season progresses, the weather gets worse and the games don't get called off.

Anyways, that's how I saw the contest; definitely the right result though I wouldn't be too worried about Girvan Dempsey's side before they begin their quest for a B&I Cup three-peat next weekend in Plymouth.  

Fair play to Munster A and I would be extremely happy with a reversal of the scoreline at the Aviva later ;-)


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019