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Gutted after Gutsy Performance falls short: Leinster: 16 – Munster: 15

The “what-ifs” and “if-onlys” will hurt as the season came to a dramatic but ultimately disappointing end in the RDS at the semi-final stage.  The narrowest of margins in the end and credit to the team for their guts and never say die attitude as they almost found a fairytale ending in the closing minutes.  No one left early from our section with the game delicately poised in the balance after the second Munster try.  It was good to see Munster being more adventurous in attack as they threw everything at the European Champions. The decision making and execution at times let them down and I noted that the coach picked up on the latter in his post match interview when he said:

“Execution is something we want to work on. We got very close against the two teams that played the final in Europe: a five-point game and a one-point game… We want to improve and compete against all the trendsetters in Europe.”

The ambition is there and given the disruption this season with the change of coach and defence coach (Jacques is missed prowling the sideline during the game) and injuries in key positions, reaching the last four of both competitions is not a bad result.  However, after yet another season without silverware there is disappointment and frustration, but let’s not despair.  The bad old days from not so long ago when we failed to get out of our European group and were fighting to scrape into 6th place in the league to earn European Cup action for the following season show that progress has been made. Munster is again a force to be reckoned with and the new management team will be relishing the opportunity to address short-comings in the off and pre-season.  Add Tadhg Beirne and a fit again Chris Cloete to the pack and we will have a team capable of punching holes and keeping the opposition guessing while our midfield options next season should give us the ability to mix and match depending on the opposition and game plan if we can keep them all fit.  The competition for those places could be fierce as Sammy and Rory will look to build on their great partnership this season while Chris and Jaco will be eager to return to action.

Munster started well, bringing good intensity and energy as they were determined not to make a slow start as has caught them out in other games this season.  CJ Stander was fired up and getting over the gainline.  Peter O’Mahony stole their first lineout; there were loops and offloads as Munster tried to show more creativity in attack.  However Leinster turned over the ball and Lowe showed his class, eventually putting Jack Conan through for the only Leinster try of the game

Lowe who deservedly won MOTM was involved twice in that flowing attack, creating havoc.  The defence scrambled well to keep him out the first time but his skill to get the pass away to Conan as he stumbled was amazing.

We were very disappointed to see Jack stretchered off after ten minutes after his leg was trapped in a ruck as he fell.  He seemed to be in a lot of pain.  Hopefully he will make a good recovery to build on his progress this season.

JJ Hanrahan got Munster on the scoreboard with a successful penalty kick after 18 minutes.  Ross Byrne added a penalty for Leinster to re-establish their 7 point lead.  A superb try saving tackle by Sammy prevented Leinster doubling their advantage.

Yet Munster continued to create opportunities – a sniping break by Conor Murray nearly set Conway free, Zebo probed the other wing and nearly got the pass to Earls.  JJ missed a second penalty attempt.  Conway could have been put in space on several occasions if the final pass to him had been accurate!  The scrum and lineout were going well.

Coming up to half time Munster were attacking through the phases.  CJ even crossed the line but James Ryan managed to turn him on his back and he could not ground the ball.  In the build-up Jean Kleyn had cleared out Ross Byrne,  making contact with his head and Jean was sin-binned for a reckless tackle.  Credit to the 14 men in red they held firm (Sammy even packing down at flanker for a scrum) and while Leinster were able to clear their line, they could not add to their score before the break.  It was all to play for in the second half.

Scrum_2ndHalf

Scrum with Robin playing at 8

Munster made a great start despite being down to 14 still, which ended with Keith Earls squeezing in at the corner after great work by amongst others Robin Copeland winning a turnover on Carbery; Ian Keatley on for the injured JJ Hanrahan reacted quickly to another turnover to carry well; Rhys  Marshall on his 50th appearance tumbled out of a tackle to make more ground, Rory Scannell drove at the defence before Zebo drew the defender before passing to Earls.  He had a lot to do to finish the move with Byrne and Cronin trying to close him down but he is a class finisher.  It was a worrying sight to see him require the medics when he seemed to injure himself in scoring but thankfully he was able to continue.  The touchline conversion was unsuccessful but at 10-8 Munster were well in the game.

The photo captures how much work he had to do to finish the move!

An offside gave Byrne a chance to make it 13-8 just minutes later,   Jean Kleyn returned to the action, making it 3-5 to Munster during his absence.

Zebo got caught in possession as Ringrose chased his kick.  Leinster kicked the penalty for touch.  However the maul defense was superb controlled aggression and Munster won the turnover.  The wardrobe malfunction of Billy was a trifle distracting as the lads drove back Leinster!

Leinster missed two penalty kicks – the breeze blowing towards the south end proved to be tricky or maybe someone had mastered the Yoda mind-tricks and steered the ball wide, or our sharp intake of breath on the south stand created a micro current.

Peter tapped back the restart.  Zebo was nearly through to gather his own chip but the bounce took it out of his grasp.  Earls uncharacteristically knocked-on to give Leinster a scrum with their replacement front row, Porter getting a lot of plaudits from his team mates when it resulted in the long range penalty (the 2nd miss mentioned above).

Leading by example again Peter stole another Leinster lineout as the clock approached the hour mark.  Ian Keatley made a key tackle to stop Garry Ringrose’s break in midfield.  Cian Healy tackled Murray to concede a penalty which after discussion Conor kicked to touch.  However the defence held firm and eventually James Tracy won the turnover.  Maybe we should have taken the 3 points on offer to reduce the deficit to 2 but Peter felt that going for the lineout was the right decision at the time.

Another forward pass, this time by Zebo gave Leinster a scrum and from it another penalty putting Munster 8 points behind when Carbery kicked it, with just 4 minutes left.  Munster injected a lot of pace and when they were awarded a penalty Murray took it quickly.  When he was stopped short Grobler took it on and touched it down against the post according to the TMO.

A quick conversion and there was a minute left to see if Munster could work their way back upfield.  They made a heroic effort, retaining possession and making ground with notable carries by Zebo and Earls, Kleyn and O’Mahony before Killer was penalized for not releasing and that was that.  The home team and supporters were ecstatic.  The Munster players and the red army were devastated.

LEINSTER: Joey Carbery; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Isa Nacewa (captain) (Rory O’Loughlin ‘HT), James Lowe; Ross Byrne (HIA – Barry Daly ’37 to ‘HT), Luke McGrath (Nick McCarthy ’76); Jack McGrath (Cian Healy ’47), Seán Cronin (James Tracy ’56), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’56); Devin Toner, James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock (Scott Fardy ’63), Jordi Murphy (Max Deegan ’79), Jack Conan.

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Sammy Arnold (Darren Sweetnam ’69), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan (Ian Keatley ‘HT), Conor Murray; James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne ’53), Rhys Marshall (Niall Scannell ’60), John Ryan (Ciaran Parker ’74); Jean Kleyn (yellow card ’37), Billy Holland (Gerbrandt Grobler ’51); Peter O’Mahony (captain), Jack O’Donoghue (Robin Copeland ’11), CJ Stander.  Replacement not used: Duncan Williams.

Match reports from The42.ie , Irish Times  ThreeRedKings, Irish Examiner, Irish Independent and post match views of Peter O’Mahony particularly on the big call to go for touch with a late penalty.  This one in the Examiner covers post match thoughts of Peter and Johann

Post match interview with Zebo below and you can see how emotional he was feeling on his last game in his home province colours (for now).  ThreeRedKings wrote a blog about his unique style.  His try-scoring record may never be surpassed!  Good luck also to Robin and GG in their new clubs and thank you for your contributions to Munster.

Billy Keane covers the game in his own inimitable style in the Indo while David Corkery wrote on his FB page(the full article is worth reading, here is an excerpt):

In a strange way this eighty-minute performance for me was the most encouraging I’ve seen for many a year because of their willingness to play with a southern hemisphere panache. … Yes, they failed in their quest on this occasion however, at least this time they failed trying something new and they sleep in the knowledge that they gave it their all.

Stats from ESPN are here

farewellZebo

Au Revoir Zeebs

The benefit of sitting in the north or south stands was the unreserved seating so clusters of red jerseys could gather together rather than being very spread out as happens in the Aviva.  There was a lot of rubbish in the media during the week about the return of tickets by Munster.  Given the MRSC lottery system it was not surprising that many supporters had opted instead to buy directly from the Leinster public sale where you could be sure of a ticket and buy 2 or more together.  It was fun to hear from 2 friends that they spotted me in the Munster supporters photo used in the article on the RTE website – the same one used by MRSC to confirm membership was at full capacity.  There was plenty of red at both ends in particular but that headline won’t result in clicks!

I was tweeting before the game about how fancy it was in the ladies with their Dyson hand dryers unlike at Thomond where we use paper towels.  I spotted Joan and Kevin so I went over to sit with them as I knew Kevin is a good man to kick off a song.  Babs joined us there and kept me entertained pre-game and during it also with her comments which are not to be reprinted apparently 🙂

Babs_Peter_Sis

Lovely to meet Babs and see her new dress up close and yes that is a photo of Peter Stringer with the HC on her bag! With my sisters Eleanor and Michelle; Joan and Kevin were behind us along with Ronan while Donal took the photo

I did prefer the RDS to the Aviva despite the result.  The atmosphere was better, Kevin had us singing from time to time and that stirred up the home supporters to drown us out.  Not sure if we were heard in other sections of the ground but we gave it welly.  There did not seem to be a constant stream of people to the bar or maybe that was just because we were in the centre of the row.  Leo the lion was often in front of us, banging his drum and encouraging chanting – of course chants of Leinster and Munster can be hard to distinguish, you really need to stress the first syllable! Oscar made an appearance pre-game also.  There were some empty single seats near us as people did not always move in to leave no spaces and I was surprised at how close to kick off it was before many people came in and were then looking for a few seats together.

The final will be interesting as Leinster aim for the double European and league success while the Scarlets will look to retain their title and do themselves justice after their heavy defeat by Leinster in their European semi.  After that we will have the Australia tour, the Under 20s and the 7s competitions.  Before we know it the season will start again!  On the 20th of June the draw for next season’s Champions Cup will take place and hopefully we will have some different teams to challenge ourselves against and new places to explore.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About an hour before kick-off a colourful Leinster supporter shows that there is a breeze is blowing

So another season comes to an end, what was your favourite memory – Conway’s super try and the overall team performance against Toulon, a rare win at Welford Road, the emergence of new players like young player of the year Sam Arnold or newcomers of the year Chris Cloete and Chris Farrell whose unfortunate injuries meant they missed the business end of the season?  Thanks to those who have been following along, commenting, sharing etc.  It’s been a pleasure to meet some of you during the season.

It will be interesting to see how the South African teams do next season with a proper preparation (not playing Currie Cup at the same time!).  The TV coverage will be a big change also.  Hopefully that means they will finalise the match schedule a bit earlier but I won’t hold my breath!   It will be strange not having the base (family home) in Thurles anymore so my match day routine will be different but I have renewed my season ticket.  Whether I keep the blog going or try something different like a podcast is a decision I am putting off for now.

GDPR – a reminder to those who have subscribed to receive an email when I post a new edition, that you can unsubscribe at any time. I will send out a specific email so I can take any bounce backs off the mailing list.  As this is not a marketing email I don’t think I need to insist you all resubscribe..

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15 comments on “Gutted after Gutsy Performance falls short: Leinster: 16 – Munster: 15

  1. Thank you Gayle, I enjoy your blog and look forward to meeting up again next season – we have also renewed our membership so the wicklow contingent will be on the road again. Have a great summer|

  2. From Twitter:
    Donal: Thanks Gayl, best of luck with your plans for next season, looking forward to it in whatever format it takes
    Christopher: Fine margins our great sport has have a great summer
    Helen: Know podcast way to go Gayl but keep blog going as well Can only listen to pods while ironing Only so much ironing one can do!! Thanks for all the blogs,news&pics & your upbeat attitude to @Munsterrugby Beir Bua leat

  3. Keep her goin Gayle – we gave em a good run and a little more accuracy off the kicking tee and we would have won it.
    We did hear the singin from the Anglesey stands – well done. I can’t understand why the Leinster and Ulster supporters have only one sentence songs – coybib and Suftum – pathetic. There was one half hearted attempt to sing molly but it petered out.
    See ya next year.

    • Thanks Patrick, delighted that the sound of our singing carried over to you in the posh seats! I picked the wrong end again – all the scores were in the other end just like happened to me in Bordeaux! They left points behind on the tee also but we created changes and then the pass went forward or was a bit wild and the opportunity was lost Plenty to build on! All the best

  4. Great read again Gayl. Hope you keep it going in some format. Shame about the result but hopefully as the team develops, that composure needed to win the big games becomes the norm. Have a great summer.

    • Appreciate the encouragement Steve. Pre-season will be key this summer to improve ball handling and hence execution and I think decision making under pressure = the composure you mentioned. I do think we are still on a good upward trajectory and hopefully will be proven to be right! Enjoy your summer

  5. Many thanks once again, Gayle for all the blogging during the season.
    I thought early in the second half, that it was ours to lose. We were dominating up front and we had the Leinster guys in serious trouble. I felt if only we had kept it tight and played the 10 man game for a while more, we would have won that game. Instead we had pass after pass misdirected and wrong options taken at crucial times.
    I thought that a Leinster prop, dove in over the top in the ruck just before their try, but it was completely ignored. I dont normally criticise refs but I felt on Saturday that he followed the crowds calls. The penalty count in the second half demonstrates that to me. The last scrum penalty which was crucial to the result could have been called either way.
    Overall, it was our errors that decided this game and we deserved to lose. If only…
    We so need a quality outhalf, to progress this team. Both JJ, who was playing well until injured and Keatley are talented but are both not game changers. Thats what we need going forward.
    Enjoy the rest!

    • Thanks for leaving your 1st comment Peter. I think that is why POM went for the lineout not the kick with that penalty, they really were dominating but could not get through the defence. I think Beirne will add a lot next season and we will see what JVG can do with a proper pre season to bed in the changes he wants to make. Enjoy the summer

  6. Hi Gayl, Thanks a million for yet another great blog – please don’t give it up next season. It was a sad end to the season, but the lads certainly gave their all. Their disappointment was terrible to see. I believe that Johann was correct in his comments. We had plenty of chances, but could not get the passes and kicks away as accurately as could be wished. Whether fatigue played a part in our performance I don’t know, But it was a shame to see Zebo miss two vital tackles leading to the first Leinster try. Conor had a fabulous game in both attack and defence, but his box kicking was not up to his usual amazing standard, 10 of his 12 box kicks ended up in Leinster hands. We just can’t afford to give away hard won possession. We must also tighten up on our discipline, they say that over 10 penalties and the team is likely to lose, and we gave away 14 including a yellow card. I believe that we can mix it with the best in Europe and beat them, if, as Johann says, we tighten up on our errors and discipline. We’ve been in 3 semi-finals and one final in the past two years, so much better than in the preceding few years. I believe in our team and with some slight improvement, we can win match.
    Very best wishes, see you next season,
    Paul
    P.S.
    The two communions went off very well, my two little granddaughters both looked angelic!

    • Thanks Paul, you have been my most consistent and prolific commenter this season! I always look forward to seeing what you have to say. I agree with your points above and am delighted that the communions went well, you had lovely weather for them! All the best till we meet again

  7. Hi Gayl,

    Thanks for your efforts over the season and hopefully you will continue next season. It gives me something to look forward to on a Monday particularly after a defeat!! I agree with your comments about the ticketing arrangements – it was a shambles. People with dual season tickets could only buy a single ticket with the result that there were lots of people in the stand trying to swop seats and of course lots of people didn’t take their quota of one because they couldn’t sit beside whoever they went to the games with all season.

    Regarding the game we came up short again and without going in to the in’s and out’s of various plays I want to make a few observations. first of all we seem to have lost many of the good habits learned from Rassie and Jacques Nienebar such as not conceding penalties and not missing tackles. Last Saturday we conceded twice as many penalties as Leinster and while the missed tackles % was much same as Leinster we have missed quite a lot of tackes in the recent games, 38 against Racing and 22 in the first half against Edinburgh. i can’t understand how the excellent defence mechanism that was put in place during the first half of last season could disintegrate so quickly. Also i don’t understand the logic of releasing GG and then signing another South African to play in the back row. Obviously i don’t know the totality of the negotiations and perhaps it was GG’s decision to go but he will be a major loss as he is a top class player and should have started the last few games. while we will have Tadg Beirne next season I imagine he will be missing for the international windows and GG would have been a huge help even though I believe he is much more than a backup player.

    Anyway let’s end on a position vote and hope that with the new players (Haley and Beirne) and the injury returnees (Taute, Farrell and Cloete not forgetting Tommy!) we can progress and won a trophy next season

    • Thanks for checking out my post every Monday Jim. I am hopeful the new defence coach will tackle those issues during the pre-season, mixed messages mid-season with a change in approach due to the change in personnel can’t have helped. A few fewer penalties conceded and esp the YC would have made a difference on Sat also but we have to move on. How could I forget Tommy when he is a fellow Premier County person! The new season will be a fresh start for the JVG era, he will have learnt a lot from the last few weeks in particular and will look to address those shortcomings. All the best

  8. Hi Gayl – as ever a great take on the match and the season as a whole. Was a very disappointing end to the season but as you surmised, lots to look forward to during the off season and before we know it, it will be time to joint the fellow red army members in next seasons march for silverware.

    Kev

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