Munster head coach Johann van Graan was left to rue a sloppy performance by his side that saw them lead to an away URC quarter-final against Ulster in two weeks.
A win over an exhausted Leinster side would have guaranteed Munster a knockout round at Thomond Park, but they shook their lines and paid a heavy price.
If Munster beat Ulster they would also be in the semi-finals with a trip to South Africa on the cards unless Edinburgh beat Stormers in Cape Town.
On a deeply disappointing night at the Aviva, Munster went down 35-25 to a young Leinster side with nothing but pride to play for.
Van Graan will need to rally his players quickly, but the manner of that devastating defeat could last as Ulster lie in wait.
“That’s how the chips fell now,” said Van Graan.
“We performed well last time we got promoted there but this will be a knockout game, a quarter-final to move further in the competition.
“Ulster are a quality team, good attacking pack with good shooting play. It’s now a new eight-team competition and if you want to go through you have to win your quarter-finals and we have to do that against Ulster.”
Van Graan said he was aware of the different permutations in the final which could result in Munster having to travel to South Africa for his quarter-finals.
“Jack (O’Donoghue) and I talked about all the different scenarios this morning,” he revealed.
“After the Stormers result we knew we needed five points if we wanted to finish second. And then what if you have four points, three points plus four tries, two points, one point, and zero points?
“The message when Leinster took that final penalty was if we get another try we have four tries and we’re within seven so we took the two points that would have had us at home. But that shouldn’t be.
“We might have overplayed but we looked for the penalty to hopefully get us in the corner to hopefully get that fourth try and two points. But it shouldn’t be.”
Van Graan refused to come up with excuses as Leinster had to rest all of their regular players ahead of next week’s Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.
“I won’t go into players being rested, both teams had players who weren’t available,” said Van Graan.
“Two teams were selected that were better than us that night. The difference is that tonight we didn’t get knocked out.”
The Munster manager was disappointed his side failed to capitalize on some bright sparks in the first 40 minutes.
“They started well in the first half and we came back. I felt like we created a lot in the first half and not nearly clinically enough,” added Van Graan.
“We created opportunities and didn’t take them. They will take their chance against a team like them.
“Right after half time we started well and then the minutes went by from 49 to 53 so they scored with that penalty try and we went down to 14 and they scored straight away.
“At 22-18 we were down 32-22 and then we have to catch up.
“We’re incredibly disappointed and we came here to win tonight and we weren’t clinical enough to play that fair against them.”
Meanwhile, Leo Cullen praised Jordan Larmour’s performance on his return from injury as the Ireland international scored some game-changing moments in Leinster’s hugely impressive 35-25 win.
Larmour has endured a frustrating season but he reminded everyone of his skills as his dancing feet lit up a contest that saw Leinster set up a home URC quarter-final tie against Glasgow in two weeks time.
After Ciaran Frawley was sent off with a facial injury, Larmour hopes to have done enough to get on the bench for next week’s Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.
“It was great for him and very, very gratifying,” Cullen said of Larmour.
“That’s what we said about guys planning their run at this time of year. So yeah, there sure is a lot to think about.”
Though Frawley passed his HIA, Cullen explained the nature of his injury, which ended his involvement in a game where he impressed:
“He also had a cut on his chin so he got through his HIA piece but he was running out of time because his chin was stitched up. Anyway, that was the decision that was made there, but he’s already through his HIA.
“Cormac (Foley) with his shoulder is probably the worst (injury) of them all. So we’re going to have him checked out, but he was the one who was most uncomfortable there.”
Cullen was delighted with the way his young side performed, which dashed Munster’s hopes of a home quarterfinal with a clinical performance.
Joe McCarthy and Ryan Baird impressed up front, while academy scrum-half Ben Murphy came off the bench to become the 60th player fielded by Leinster that season.
“It was a really gratifying result and a lot of good things came into play,” added Cullen.
“Ryan Baird goes up from the start, tackles him, we get the ball down and it leads to a goal in the first few minutes of the game. A lot of really good stuff. Munster had their moments too.
“One of the most enjoyable parts is probably the start of the second half, Munster get that try, the ball goes up in the air and they get the bounce and it was a bit of luck, obviously they take the try.
“But the composure of our lads, especially with some young lads, would they put themselves back in the game? But to be fair, they get a fair bit of control back into the game and produce a lot of moments.
“The penalty attempt results in a yellow card for them and suddenly we have the advantage, the lads that came off the bench took decent shots too so I have a lot of good things to say which is great.
“Overall we are happy about the win. You see the guys growing in terms of experience and you want them to get better going forward. And getting through that in front of over 30,000 people is fantastic.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/pro14/johann-van-graan-rues-sloppy-munster-performance-as-leo-cullen-hails-sensational-jordan-larmour-41675581.html Johann van Graan regrets Munster’s sloppy performance while Leo Cullen hails sensational Jordan Larmour