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Leinster secured their passage into the Guinness PRO14 final thanks to a 24-9 victory over Munster on Saturday at the RDS.
Here, former Leinster and Ireland international Reggie Corrigan talks through some of the key moments of the game which swung the outcome in his former side’s favour.
When I look back on this game, it’s probably one that Munster will be scratching their heads a little bit because they will certainly feel there were some golden opportunities during this match that they just didn’t take.
They probably let themselves down a little bit in that sense because I know Peter O’Mahony and Johann van Graan spoke afterwards about their discipline and giving away 13 penalties. You could tell that really annoyed them. Because against a team like Leinster, you just can’t afford to give away soft penalties and they did give away soft penalties. There’s no doubt about it.
It wasn’t that Munster didn’t play well. They did actually play very well in certain parts of the game. At the start, I thought the penalty that was given against Conor Murray was harsh. It wasn’t that high of a tackle and it gave Leinster a chance to settle things down a little bit and get three points on the board early. So they did that.
The start from Munster was good. They were putting Leinster under pressure straight away. They were hammering away at Leinster, they were causing problems. The Leinster defence was holding firm and it looked to be fairly solid but they were defending the whole time. That first 10 minute period, Leinster looked very shaky. They looked a bit all over the place and Munster were flying into them. You could see the likes of CJ Stander was clapping lads on the back. There was real energy about them, they were really into it.
However, when Munster got down into Leinster’s half, there were mistakes.
There was a crucial turnover with Robbie Henshaw (blue). Munster were building up a huge head of steam, they were getting some good phases together, good continuity, great ball skills in the lead up to it and then just one moment of poor support (red) and no clearout from Munster allowed Henshaw to get in and turn over the ball. It looked for all the world that Munster were going to score from those phases of play if they had been able to hold onto the ball. So again, they’ll look at that and say, “where was the support, why didn’t we have someone cleaning out there, why was he left isolated?”
That was kind of followed up again quickly after that, they did manage to get the ball back, I think Leinster tried to kick, it didn’t go out and Earls took it forward. So Munster had the ball again and then Jack Conan got an intercept just when Munster were starting to get into their rhythm again.
So every time it looked like they were going to get themselves into a position where they could get a score, Leinster managed to rob the ball back. So for that first early 10, 12 minutes of the game, Leinster looked really rattled. They didn’t seem comfortable and Munster seemed to be putting all the pressure on them.
Another key moment was on 13 minutes when Conor Murray (red) shot out of the line to go for this big hit on Ross Byrne (blue). The Munster defence had been well organised for the most part. There were two or three times where they made mistakes and this was one of them. Having had all of the possession and putting all the pressure on Leinster, Murray shoots out of the line and he completely leaves a gap or a hole there by doing it.
Now, if he gets the big hit on Byrne, great, he’s a hero and they get turnover ball 20m further down the pitch. But he didn’t. Byrne got the pass away and what he did was, by getting that ball away, when Garry Ringrose (blue circle) looked up, he saw Arno Botha and Dave Kilcoyne in front of him and he just stepped off his right foot, went back around to the left and went through that huge gaping hole (blue) that Murray had left in the defensive line.
All of a sudden, Leinster got their tails up and they were able to get back down around the pitch to the Munster side and into Munster territory. Murray would have been better off to just hold the defensive line and be patient. These were the types of mistakes that Munster were making that were uncharacteristic of them. They don’t normally do that. It’s usually a case of ‘we all stick together, we’ll hold the line, they won’t get through us if we don’t leave any gaps’. It was almost Murray trying too hard.
Although Munster go 3-6 up thanks to Joey Carbery’s penalty after James Lowe’s yellow card, they really needed to capitalise further on that. Even in the build-up to that, the referee had his arm out for the deliberate knock-on but the Munster lads almost started to look around them going ‘well we have the penalty, we have the penalty’, instead of playing on.
There was a bit of panic in the Leinster ranks at that stage because they knew they were going to lose Lowe. But it was still play on. The ball came out and it was a bad pass to Kleyn who just knocks it on down at his feet but if Munster had their heads about them, they would have just kept playing and try to get a score. Afterwards, the yellow card would have still come and I think that would have been a crucial moment in the game.
They have plenty of opportunities, loads of ball, loads of possession but just little silly errors, little knock-ons, just turnovers at crucial minutes that affected the outcome at the end of the game. All the time that that’s happening, when that’s going on in the match, little doubts are starting to creep into the head and they’re suddenly saying to themselves, ‘we have all this ball, we have all this possession, we have no scores though, what are we going to do? We can’t win this game without scoring.’ You could kind of see that creeping into the game a little bit as it went on.
Munster are losing all of these ‘championship moments’ whereas on the other side of the coin, Leinster are winning them.
Leinster Turning The Screw
Munster begin the second half in good shape, they put all the pressure on and again, just through mistakes and silly errors, the ball gets back to Leinster. Leinster find themselves getting out of their own end of the pitch and the difference is, they get down, they get a chance to score and of course, Niall Scannell gets in the way.
It’s clever play by Luke McGrath, he just lashes it straight into Scannell, he knows exactly what he’s doing. He gets an easy penalty in front of the sticks and Munster are down to 14 men. That’s the difference then. Leinster know they have to turn the screw here and get a score with the extra man and that’s what they did.
It was brilliant through the front-row lads but it was all built again from bringing James Lowe into it. They get the ball out wide to him, he causes a bit of havoc out on the wing, he then gets a great offload but the most important thing he did in that whole piece of play was that he got back up and delivered a one-man clear out when Munster looked like they were going to win the ball back again.
The difference was the skill levels. Cian Healy made that try. He straightened the line, fixed the defender and timed the pass perfectly to Tadhg Furlong and it was good skill by him for his pass to Cronin as well and from that distance. Cronin is never not scoring.
That was the difference, when Leinster got themselves into a position to score, unlike Munster, they didn’t drop a ball, they didn’t force a pass that wasn’t on, they just played it well and played it cleverly. Once it went to 19-9, the Munster heads just dropped. On 60 minutes it never felt like Munster would find a way to break down that blue wall and get a score. It seemed to be that they had given it their all and there was nothing left in the tank at that stage.
Overall, Leinster won the ‘championship moments’ throughout this game; the turnovers at crucial times, forcing Munster into errors and executing patient moves which resulted in tries proved the difference in the end.
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