Leinster deserved to win and could have won by more but equally they could have won by less as Munster gift wrapped a few points for them! If Simon Zebo had not gotten back to deny Isa Nacewa twice (once in each half) or if Garry Ringrose with the line at his mercy had managed to pick up the ball kicked through by Johnny Sexton they would have secured a winning bonus point. However they also rode their luck – the second try scored by Nacewa seemed to be off a forward pass, while for his first I thought Darren Sweetnam had just pulled his foot into touch but he must have grounded the ball just before. Back to the gift wrapping, Nacewa might not even have had the opportunity to score that one if Munster had executed a better exit strategy from the 5m scrum arising from Ringrose’s fumble which ended up with that try.
Similarly in the second half if James Cronin’s had not been penalised for a double movement but had resulted in a try for Munster, or if Ronan O’Mahony had touched down the ball behind his own line instead of fumbling it… on small margins such as this are battles lost or won.
Johnny Sexton was the man of the match, Isa Nacewa and Garry Ringrose must have been contenders also.
We knew this would be the first serious test of the progress made by Munster this season and so it proved to be. Instead of writing about events unfolding on the pitch I decided to write about what I learnt from this game. The stats show that Munster had plenty of possession but not enough penetration as the blue wall of defence held firm. Munster also gave away penalties and conceded turnovers at key times to hand momentum back to Leinster.
The front row and scrum held up well against their international opposition, while not as dominant as against other packs.
Peter O’Mahony got through a busy forty minutes of action including scoring a try, which will help to battle harden him for the tough games in the coming schedule.
Various midfield combinations got some invaluable match time together – Scannell was back from injury to partner Earls for the first time I believe, then he played for the first time with Taute before Keatley replaced Rory to partner Jaco.
Darren Sweetnam continues to impress on limited opportunity. It was great to see him soar to claim a box kick, winning that contest against Nacewa. Another example of his workrate was when he managed to grab Luke McGrath by his shorts to haul him down; when Luke got the pass away Darren reacted by getting up quickly and blocking down the clearance kick by Nacewa. He has some work to do on his defensive positioning yet.
Tyler Bleyendall played the full 80 minutes and his 2/2 kicking return further improved his kicking percentages (89% coming into the game)
Jaco Taute scored his first try for Munster on his second appearance.
It was great to see Jack O’Donoghue who replaced Peter at the start of the second half back so quickly after the serious looking injury he suffered in the Edinburgh game.
There were some good mauls including the first Munster try which featured forwards and backs driving over the line and in the second half in the build up to Taute’s try.
Munster put some good phases of continuity together – 21 at one stage and 15 leading to James Cronin’s effort but need to find more of a cutting edge to capitalise on their possession.
LEINSTER: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Rory O’Loughlin, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Isa Nacewa (captain), 10. Johnny Sexton (Joey Carberry 70′), 9. Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park 63′); 1. Cian Healy (Jack McGrath 48′), 2. Sean Cronin (James Tracy 53′), 3. Tadhg Furlong (Mike Ross 63′), 4. Devin Toner, 5. Ian Nagle (Ross Molony 53′), 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Jordi Murphy (Dan Leavy 60′), 8. Jamie Heaslip. Replacements not used: 23. Noel Reid.
MUNSTER: 15. Simon Zebo, 14. Darren Sweetnam, 13. Keith Earls (Jaco Tuite 57′), 12. Rory Scannell (Ian Keatley 71′), 11. Ronan O’Mahony, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin 45′), 2. Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey 75), 3. John Ryan (Stephen Archer 63′), 4. Donnacha Ryan (Robin Copeland 70′), 5. Billy Holland, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Jack O’Donoghue HT) 7. Tommy O’Donnell, 8. CJ Stander. Replacements not used: 21. Duncan Williams.
Quinny’s verdict from the Independent: “The review session this morning won’t be pretty but Munster will know that the errors they made are rectifiable before going to Paris on Sunday.”
TG4 player link for those who can access it is here
I was in the queue, joining it outside Penneys, for about an hour and forty minutes, so it was great to have some good company to pass the time. Rob who was on a day trip from Manchester for the game found me there. It was good to catch up since our last meeting in Leicester where we plan to meet again next December. I was chatting to Noel, originally from County Limerick and now living in Glasnevin who had seen Paul on the Late Late Show the previous evening and decided to come in and get the book autographed. Eventually we worked our way into Easons and as we shuffled up and down the aisles by the wellness books, diet books, sports books etc. I was telling him about my blog. When I spotted Charlie Mulqueen’s book on the shelf which includes an excerpt from my Munster v New Zealand 2008 match I joked that he should buy that one also and I could autograph it for him! Noel promised to check out the blog so as he wears his Fainne with pride, táim ag suil le do chuid tuairimí a Noel! I also showed him my photo taken on Wednesday with the silver medallists which I have now also included in the blog I wrote about them Inspiration from Lisheen
Unfortunately I did not have time to join Noel for a cuppa as I had to get to the stadium. It was a mild overcast day and I enjoyed the walk from the city centre to Ballsbridge. This fixture is always colourful and a source of great rivalry and banter amongst the supporters. I was sitting in the third row of the lower west stand between a couple – one wearing red and the other blue on my left while to my right two deaf men – one red and the other blue – were having a great animated sign-language chat throughout the game. As I left I noticed a father in blue with his young son up on his shoulders in his red jersey! It was also great to catch up for the first time this season with Bernie and Eddie as we walked back towards the city. Eddie was looking for positives and another group I passed were saying that maybe Racing would feel the backlash next weekend so there are a few other glass half full folks out there!
Before the game there was an impressive gymnastic display on the pitch, recreating the Leinster motto about grass-roots rugby.
After the teams took to the pitch they lined up for a minute’s silence as a mark of respect for the sad death of the baby daughter of Leinster player Hayden Triggs. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.