For a time, it looked like a triumph of the power games. Not only do Leinster have a comprehensive range of these offering happy endings, but they know which ones to use, where and when. Munsters aren’t third world, but they’re not nearly as effective either.
Maybe the secret isn’t in those launch pads, but in reacting to things when the plan goes awry.
For example, the skills and quick thinking of Robbie Henshaw when one of Leinster’s more prosaic offers fell through a hole – he bailed it out and held the door open for Jimmy O’Brien to finish, giving Leinster a crucial edge on the finish line in sight.
As a schoolboy at Newbridge, O’Brien was one of an exciting lineup of defenders but there was no certainty that what he had to offer would take him far. However, over the last year he has delved into Hugo Keenan’s book on how to get better with every game.
Plus, he looks like every minute in blue is as much crack as time well spent.
The most impressive reaction, however, was the one that swept through Leinster when that lead was threatened. How Münsteran will miss Damian de Allende.
If they were going to get back into the debate, they needed a strong point, which Springbok made, and he did it. At this stage Leinster was shifting gears so aggressively and pedaling so hard that it was an environmental offence.
It was no coincidence that Luke McGrath was behind the wheel for this race on the track. You’ll remember a worse night than this, when he spotted a weakness in the home ranks at the same venue a few years ago and fired his teammates through them to win a game they should have lost.
The sheer willpower to go one better after De Allende’s attempt was tremendous. It was not lost on England referee Christophe Ridley, who contributed to the occasion.
“I know this game means a lot to you, but…” he said as it boiled over a bit. It meant a lot to Leinster, for whom this was their 29th win in 45 rounds of the race in the pro era.
Playing back the sequence that led to James Lowe sealing the game, and the bonus point, will be worth it for the soundtrack alone: lots of angry men yelling to get the job done, but not enough to upset their skills leaving.
It was a different mood from that leading up to Lowe’s first try, for example, perhaps the best example of Leinster’s ability to deflect a set piece.
From a scrum in a decent attacking position, they used O’Brien to change job descriptions and doubled down beautifully to link up with Garry Ringrose, putting Munster in trouble they couldn’t escape.
This was hardly a season-ending experience for the home side, but it must have shaken them to be knocked out again in a game where they had found their feet. More of the same and no certainty off the field either.
It’s remarkable that we’re here for the final turn of the season and Munster still doesn’t know who his head coach will be next season.
Consider the news of Johann van Graan’s departure, delivered before Christmas, followed by what appeared to be a heated exchange with IRFU performance director David Nucifora about how the gap would be filled. And then nothing.
Down-to-earth and popular, striker coach Graham Rowntree fits into Limerick life like a comfortable piece of furniture. He wouldn’t be keen on being removed.
If the Tiger is to become Van Graan’s successor, it would have been useful if he was already in charge. If not, hope Rowntree, the lone survivor of the current coaching staff and under contract until the summer of 2024, does extremely well with the new man.
The prospect of Munster and the IRFU getting this wrong would be too much for the brave and the faithful, many of whom chose not to come to Thomond Park on a fine spring evening.
This wasn’t the second string hoping their circus act made a passable impression of the marquee names. These became the marquee names.
This is a very dangerous time for Munster, who consider Limerick to be the epicenter of Irish rugby.
This precinct’s hurlers are in a class of their own, but now the footballers – who were beaten by Louth in Saturday’s League Division 3 final – look like men on a mission. It takes a lot of planning and organization and money to make a county competitive in both codes.
This effort soaks up many bodies in the swing of young talent.
Bodies that consider Limerick GAA a more attractive proposition than Munster Rugby.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/munster-rugby/munster-need-to-get-head-coach-appointment-right-to-avoid-losing-further-ground-on-leinster-41515182.html Brendan Fanning: ‘Munster needs to get head coaching appointment right to keep from losing ground’