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Saturday 10 December 2016

O'Connell left to rue missed opportunities in final

Leinster and Townsend are made for each other

It's four years and counting for Munster since they last won a trophy.

Paul O'Connell left the eternal winner without the winner's medal that would have fit so appropriately around his neck.

The old warhorse is old school. He entered the Kingspan cauldron towards the back of the Munster line of soldiers as just one of the rank and file.

The adulation and admiration in the build-up is sure to have embarrassed him.

The idea that he should be singled out of the team ethic he embodies with every fibre of his fading being would have felt incongruous.

As fate would have it, the vital touches that turned the contest came from another second row Leone Nakawara, the Fijiian with the NBA basketball skills.

Glasgow put all the hurt and anguish from the last four years into gear from the outset to tear Munster apart at the seams.

Coach Anthony Foley said it best: "Everything stuck for them. In order for it to stick, they tried it.

"The brave thing to do in the final. They went after it, anything that was unstructured."

And how Munster fed the monster.

The dreadful kicking out of defence, litany of missed tackles, unorganised, defensive system combined to hand Glasgow the leg-up they didn't really need.

"We allowed it to happen," reflected Foley. "Sometimes you go into a final and you expect certain things to happen for you.

"I think the way they went about their job, dominated us in the collisions, managed to get through the other side of the tackle and got the ball away.

"Our point of defence kept changing. It kept us on the back-foot. From there, they got killer passes away and we struggled."

"All in all, you concede 30-odd points in a final, you don't expect to win."

There was symmetry between The Premiership and PRO12 League finals played on the same afternoon.

The two best attacks met the two most pragmatic defences.

At Twickenham, the Saracens 'wolfpack' subdued George Ford's Bath, undoubtedly the coming force in England.

In Belfast, Gregor Townsend's magic-makers made their experience of previous failures work for them.

In fairness, this is Glasgow's time. It marks the official resurrection of Scottish rugby, at least on the club front.

Glasgow are fronted by the thoroughlyly decent Townsend, who coaches it as he played it.

There were times as a player for Scotland and The British & Irish Lions when he wasn't trusted completely to bring his mercurial brand of rugby to bare.

He has had the bravery to push the beautiful game and he looks like he intends to build a temple to bloom.

Although Townsend looks wedded to Scottish rugby, there is a club across the water that craves his type of rugby.

Leinster could make their move sooner or there will be no later.

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