Munster lose to Leinster in Aviva showdown
Munster received another reality check in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night as they lost 30-21 to Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO 12, a week before they begin their Heineken Cup campaign against Racing Metro in Paris.
But while it always pains to have your arch rivals inflicting the damage in a marquee fixture before 46,280 supporters with just a week before the start of the Heineken Cup, at least Munster produced a resilient performance against Leinster this time round.
Munster’s confidence level ahead of Saturday’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the Aviva Stadium had more to do with the notable absentees from Leinster’s line-up, due to injury, rather than their own away form this season.
But Leinster proved themselves to be the superior force once more in a high octane encounter, out-scoring their opponents by three tries to two. The fixture provided further evidence that it is going to take time and patience for the players to perfect Rob Penney’s gameplan which places a strong emphasis on playing with width.
The problem on Saturday evening was that Munster played long stretches of the game without the football and trying to remain in contention in a match where you’re regularly on the back foot is virtually impossible.
Munster’s strong showing in the final 20 minutes will instil hope in their supporters ahead of this Saturday’s trip to the Stade de France to face Racing Metro in the European Cup, however. (1.35pm Irish time).
Coach Rob Penney has much to mull over in terms of team selection this week. Ian Keatley’s eye-catching display when introduced at out-half will have provided plenty of food for thought for the Kiwi as will the midfield combination he opts to deploy in Paris. Could Penney leave Ronan O’Gara out of his starting line-up this weekendin favour of the ever-improving Ian Keatley.
Penney insists that the result of next weekend’s pool match against big spending Racing will not define Munster’s season.
“I don’t believe the Racing Metro game defines our season,” Penney said.
“There is a lot of footie to go. Our ability to produce good performances on a consistent basis and when we have our foot on the throat, to be able to nail the opportunities presented to us, is not happening at the moment.
“To say next week, or the next two weeks define our season is a bit harsh, a bit short-sighted given we have got some lads in there who are new to this and every opportunity they have to play is a growing opportunity. I, for one, am very positive about the direction they are headed.
“Tonight, I felt our endeavour and commitment was fantastic. I thought our accuracy was average. We just made too many errors, both offensively and defensively. At the end of the day, you cannot make that many errors against any side, but Leinster are going to make you pay for those errors.
“There will be discussion about a number of people (in terms of selection for Saturday’s game). We are still working through the best mix for this team right at the moment.
“Those selection discussions will be had, but they will be had at a number of levels and across a number of positions.
“Barring Ospreys, where we were below par, I think we are actually doing some really good things. We are close, but we are not quite getting over the line.”
Penney again declined to nominate a return date for injured second row Paul O’Connell.
Penney said: “As we keep saying, week in and week out, Paul is going to be ready when he is ready. If we put a timeline on it and he is not ready, all of a sudden he is under immense pressure. We are not putting a timeline on it. He is getting close, doing a lot of good work.”
While Penney said replacement hooker Damien Varley was unfortunate to receive a yellow card in the third quarter, he agreed that the frequency with which players in the team were sin-binned remaining a worry.
“It has become far too regular. We are discussing it,” Penney said.
Trailing 14-30 after 53 minutes with the somewhat unfortunate Varley in the sin-bin after a ruck infringement, Munster looked set for a right thumping.
However, Rob Penney’s charges dug deep and a strong late showing which yielded an opportunist try for Conor Murray helped bring the visitors come within nine points of their opponents. Indeed, Munster could feel more than a bit unfortunate not to claim a losing bonus point late on. Keith Earls was initially held up short of the line and when the ball squirted loose, Casey Laulala pounced to touch down. However, Welsh referee Leighton Hodges deemed it went forward.
SCORERS – Leinster: Richardt Strauss, Ian Madigan, Brian O’Driscoll try each, Jonathan Sexton three pens, three cons; Munster: Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray try each, Ronan O’Gara three pens; Ian Keatley con.
LEINSTER – Ian Madigan; Andrew Conway, Brian O’Driscoll, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross; Damien Browne, Devin Toner; Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt). Replacements: Jordi Murphy for McLaughlin (12 mins); Fionn Carr for Nacewa (52 mins); Sean Cronin for Strauss (57 mins); Noel Reid for O’Driscoll (63 mins); Jamie Hagan for Ross (65 mins); John Cooney for Conway (65 mins); Tom Denton for (Browne 72 mins).
MUNSTER – Denis Hurley: Doug Howlett (capt), Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, Simon Zebo; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan,Donnacha Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony. Replacements: Billy Holland for Donncha O’Callaghan (48 mins); Damien Varley for Sherry (50 mins); Mike Sherry for Dougal (55 mins); Wian Du Preez for Kilcoyne (57 mins); Ian Keatly for O’Gara (61 mins); Sean Dougal for Sherry (63 mins); James Downey for Zebo (65 mins); Paddy Butler for Dave O’Callaghan (70 mins).
REFEREE – Leighton Hodges (WRU)
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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