Saturday 22 October 2016

Winning ugly will do for Blues

Leinster 25 Munster 14

Isa Nacewa of Leinster goes over to score his side's second try during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 match between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium
Isa Nacewa of Leinster goes over to score his side's second try during the Guinness PRO12 Round 6 match between Leinster and Munster at the Aviva Stadium
Robbie Henshaw, left, and Jamison Gibson-Park of Leinster

Seeing is not always believing. Former All Black coach Graham Henry was the hired gun whose research and review revealed how Leinster created openings they failed to close out last season.

It was a single area Leinster have worked on since the summer. You wouldn't have known it on Saturday.

They worked two obvious overlaps in the first half, the first in the eighth minute, the second in the 32nd minute without ever looking into the space to the right.

Energetic wing Rory O'Loughlin must have felt like the odd one way out.

The sense of déjà vu was nauseating as they insisted on sending one-out runners into the belly of the Munster defence.

"I thought we definitely did get a little bit guilty of hammering away which got us tight," said Leinster coach Leo Cullen.

"There were some opportunities that we missed in that first-half in particular.

"It's an area we need to be better at for sure, recognising where the opportunities are. We are putting work into that area.


"We were guilty of hitting one-off runners which allowed them to set their defence and then the opportunity was gone.

"It's definitely somet hing we need to be better at."

For all of that, Leinster were well worth the four points that puts them on level points with leaders Ulster at the head of the PRO12 League.

They were able to win without playing wonderfully, leaving plenty to work on as The Champions Cup looms large next Saturday.

Castres Olympique will have their eyes wide open at the way Munster split Leinster with their driving maul for Peter O'Mahony to claim their first try.

"It was poor, obviously for me more than anyone else," said the coach, who based a large part of his career on his work in this specific area.

"We allowed Munster to win the ball quite far back as well, so then they're building the corner (of the maul) and taking us on into the corner.

"We're committing bodies but they're committing backs as well. It's a poor try to give away, that first one."

It wasn't the only time the Munster maul became a factor.

It emerged as the primary driver behind the second try for centre Jaco Taute.

"The second was a poor one to give away as well. We give away a penalty. They kick to the 22 and then they drive us the guts of 20 metres."

There followed a period of period close in with the eventual recognition the ball had to be moved left where Munster harvested the easiest of tries.

Once again, it all began with the splintering of the maul.

"It gets us narrow in defence and Munster are able to see the space on the edges and get the ball there.

"That's a poor try from a forward's point of view."

It wasn't all bad news for Leinster.

There appeared to be a natural connection between Jonathan Sexton, Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose, the balance in the centre looking like an exciting prospect.

In addition, there were no clear additions to the injury catalogue and an encouraging smile from Cullen when it came to the return of Sean O'Brien.

Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus was able to confirm Peter O'Mahony was removed at half-time as part of his return to full fitness protocols, although he did ship at least one heavy blow.


There seemed to be more worry about Keith Earls, assisted from the field with a shoulder injury, and the jarring head knock that caused Dave Kilcoyne's removal.

"The step up was there, definitely, intensity wise, higher than previous games. But as a reality check, if you're going to give them 14 points on a platter, you're going to lose.

"For me, that's the reality," said Erasmus.

"If you don't learn from that then the next two, three games will be really tough for us."

Next stop - Europe.

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