Munster recorded a 29-17 win over their rivals.
1. Munster’s Physicality in Defence
Given the inexperienced back line selected by Leo Cullen, Leinster were going to have to dominate around the fringes if they were to come away from Thomond Park with a victory.
However Munster met them on the gain line, not only smashing all of Leinster’s ball carriers, but sending them back from the direction in which they came.
Considering Cullen had selected Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan, Rhys Rudduck and Dan Leavy this was no mean feat.
Such was Munster’s line speed, Robbie Henshaw, Isa Nacewa and Zane Kirchner didn’t have the space to stretch their legs.
2. The Line Out
During the opening 20 minutes of the contest, both sides struggled to win their own line outs. This maybe down to familiarity, but it did little for continuity.
Although both sides addressed the issue as the game unfolded, it brings unwanted questions for Niall Scannell and James Tracy.
Indeed, with Rory Best coming into the autumn of his career and long term questions surrounding the consistency of Sean Cronin’s line out darts, the performances of Tracy and Scannell did little to add depth to Ireland’s hooking pool.
3. Munster’s Reliance On Conor Murray
Conor Murray is by some distance Munster’s best player. As such, their entire game plan revolves around the scrum half.
Murray controls Munster’s tempo, his retrievable box kicks give them easy territory, and his physicality is a massive asset in defence and attack.
However, when Leinster disrupted Murray at the breakdown in the first half, Munster looked ponderous in attack.
The same accusation was made after their defeat in Welford Road, where the Leicester Tigers didn’t seem too interested in contesting for possession at ruck time, but determined to slow Murray.
If Munster want to progress and challenge for silverware at the end of the season, then the other players in the back line must bring more creativity.
4. The Limitations Of Munster’s Attacking Play
To make so much progress in so little time is a testament to the influence of Rassie Erasmus. Munster are immeasurably better in every aspect of the game this season.
Munster have improved at the set piece,are efficient at the break down and their work in defence is something else. However Erasmus has yet to add a real cutting edge in attack.
This will no doubt come in time, but Munster will not be able to bully a full strength Leinster if the sides were to meet in the play-offs. On too many occasions the Reds relied on a cross field kick when they ran short on options.
It therefore doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to see them linked with a move for JJ Hanrahan.
Francis Saili will bring more intent in attack, but he must first find the consistency and application of Jaco Taute. While in the longer term, Chris Farrell should add an offloading game in the wider channels.
5. The Regression Of Cian Healy
This time four years ago Cian Healy was among the best loosehead props in the game. His scrummaging prowess and barreling runs gave Leinster and Ireland a platform from which to attack.
However injury seems to have taken it’s toll on Healy, and he doesn’t look anywhere near the player he was in 2013. Indeed, as the first half came to a close, Nigel Owens took Healy aside after the Leinster prop conceded three consecutive penalties.
At 29 years of age, Healy has plenty of time to rediscover his form of old, and has the luxury of playing behind Jack McGrath.
This should allow Healy the space and time to recover from any potential knocks, keeping him off the treatment table.
On this week’s edition of the Oval Office Podcast, we speak to Jamie Roberts and look ahead at the festive fixture list.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena