Never a dull moment when these two face each other, amirite???
I'm sure my fellow Leinster fans are looking forward to reading this about as much as I am to writing it so I'll try to keep this short 😉
Of course there’s no doubt about the starting point and I was sure to put it right there in my title (also not many rainbow puns left that haven’t been used elsewhere!). Over the 80 minutes, the better team won fair and square. Everything about the Munster performance showed they wanted it more and they got the win they deserved, and it was a big one too.
From there, I feel the need to move beyond the full time whistle. It was a hotly contested match throughout but there was really only one actual “shamozzle” situation between players and that was after just 3 minutes...yet unfortunately there was also one on social media which continued well after the match.
And I don’t just mean the same eejits you always see making stupid comments, either. Unfortunately it spilled over into the regular discourse and as annoying as those so-called opinions may be, for others to highlight them as if that kind of idiocy is limited to followers of one team or another is pretty much as bad.
But I’m not pointing that out to reignite the back and forth. I’m more doing it because I’m genuinely not sure what I’m allowed to mention in this writeup, because certain “caveats” appear to have been declared out of bounds.
Now to be fair, there were some taking those caveats to ridiculous extremes. No, this was not Leinster’s "4th string team", not by a long stretch. And no, we shouldn’t say Leinster didn’t care about this match because of what’s next on the calendar, that would be an insult to players and fans alike. But we can still point out that the strength of teams and differing priorities played their part, right?
You’ll have to take my word for it that I’m bringing them up because they’re legitimate talking points from the match, not because I think they take anything away from the result. Besides, I’ve lost count of the times Leinster victories were sanitised by comments about a mismatch in the teams on the day.
On the lineups, yes, it was a chance for other players to step up, and yes, they clearly failed to do this but the fact remains if this were a European semifinal then Munster’s team would have been pretty much the same, while Leinster’s most certainly would not have been.
And this might be more opinion than fact but if anything, Munster should probably have won this by more. Obviously they would have taken that scoreline at the start but one of the main reasons there was so much arguing about captain’s challenges at the end was that for all their dominance, they failed to get a bonus point which was surely there for the taking.
I should get to the actual play itself as it transpired now, but just to warn you I’ll probably get myself into more trouble when I do. First, that opening Munster try should have been called back for a knock on by Peter O’Mahony. Again, they were the better team and won the match fair and square, plus the run from De Allende which completely bamboozled Jordan Larmour followed by a quality offload to Murray was impressive.
And actually, O’Mahony’s pressure on Hugh O’Sullivan was also impressive. Where we were weakest going into the match was in our halfbacks so it made sense to ramp up the linespeed and the Munster forwards really turned the knife. It’s just that here, in swatting the ball away from our 9, he knocked on and nobody seemed to mention it which made me doubt it myself on first view, though there was no doubt on the second.
Next I’m unsure if I can mention that Harry Byrne seemed to be in pain even before he made the last ditch attempt at a tackle on Murray as he scored, forcing him to be substituted by David Hawkshaw with only 5 minutes on the clock and his team already 0-7 down. That would be a major blow to any team and with all due respect to the 9 & 10 we now had, it was always an uphill battle for them from there.
More often than not it seemed to be simple timing issue with the pair of them. Just a fraction of a second in every facet was enough to ensure the linespeed was always going to disrupt the set play. They both tried to improvise when they could but the front foot ball on which our entire attacking platform depends was just never forthcoming. This might be a good time to trot out the old cliché about a “learning curve”.
But although Hawkshaw missed a simple enough penalty right at the end of the first half, the margin was still only 7 in Munster’s favour. Our own defensive structures were actually pretty good and all in all it was quite the achievement to have limited them to just one try off transition before the break. Alas, there were more talking points for me to harp on before we look at that second half. Yes, this is about the Archer/Ryan episode.
Archer had mixed fortunes in the first half, doing well to disrupt a maul early on before shipping a couple of needless penalties. But the raking which led to his yellow was pure crazy. Again, you’ll have to go on faith that I’m genuine here, but if he doesn’t get happy with his studs (crossing my legs here as I'm typing), I’d be giving out about Ryan in this paragraph because he could have easily gotten a yellow himself.
He was trapped where he was and would have been pinged anyway, but he actually went a little further and was holding on to some legs with red socks on them while on the deck. In that area of the pitch, when the attacking team has that much momentum, you’re putting yourself in card territory. But that’s for the ref to decide, not for a prop to take matters into his own boots. So I guess when all is said and done, the yellow to Archer was the right call, despite the clear intent involved.
The problem for Leinster was that even with the extra man we still couldn’t manoeuvre the ball downfield to capitalise - not only did we miss that late penalty but Munster actually got the first score after Archer went to the naughty step. BTW on that O’Donoghue/Byrne hit, while I didn’t see an angle which proved contact was only with shoulder, I’ve probably harped too much on those other issues and while I’m here, and I am aware there were things happening the other way as well that weren’t picked up. But as you can see in the banner, this is a Leinster fan site so that’s where my focus was always going to be for this match.
After the break, we still couldn’t get things going with the ball and once Carbery was able to get that crucial first score I really don’t think even the most optimistic Leinster fan thought we had a hope of clawing our way back. The two tries they managed in the final quarter were a clear result of the dam bursting and like I said, Munster should be disappointed they didn’t get a fourth from somewhere.
But it’s not like there were absolutely no positives for Leinster. For all that James Ryan found himself in the wars, it was still much needed pitch time for him to get back up to speed before the trip to La ROGchelle next weekend. Same goes for Garry Ringrose - a quiet shift from him with the ball but still played a big part of keeping the defense intact without it. Another returnee was Tommy O’Brien who looked lively in his cameo.
Unfortunately both Caelan Doris and Ciaran Frawley had to withdraw after the Captain’s Run and it would have done both of them good to see some action. James Lowe tried to make things happen when he could but he too couldn’t find a way past those Munster tacklers.
Of course I’m disappointed, but I was also disappointed back in January when we lost to Connacht, as I was back in March when we fell to Ospreys. In fact now I’m wondering when was the last time we lost 3 matches at the RDS in the same season though I think I’ll let someone else do the research on that one…
The thing is, on both of those occasions we had bigger matches the following week.. First it was a Conference A table topper against Ulster and we got the job done. A week after those pesky birds toppled us, it was our turn to be deserved winners against Munster. Then despite being deprived a run against Toulon, we were able to focus on Exeter. Which ever way you want to look at this result, I think we have a coaching staff in place to get the squad in the right frame of mind for the task at hand.
When it comes to this competition, though there's not a whole lot of interest in this one, when there’s silverware up for grabs you want to see your team in contention, so best of luck to Munster for the rest of the way. For our part, while I doubt anyone is ruling us out completely, let’s just say I hope after next weekend we are still in a position to field more youngsters in the upcoming rounds, especially if Harry Byrne’s knock wasn’t too bad.
Going back to the online stuff one last time, I guess the moral of this story is that it’s seldom easy to find the right point on the spectrum from supporting your team, to describing exactly what happened, to triggering your opponents - and if nothing else I really hope we can at least reach agreement that no topic, no sport, no country, no team has a monopoly on muppets. JLP