By Brendan O’Brien
One-point defeats tend to be a breeding ground for regrets and Munster will harbour plenty after slipping to a 16-15 Guinness PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster at the RDS on Saturday afternoon.
The visitors reduced an eight-point deficit to the bare minimum with a converted last-minute try from Gerbrandt Grobler so, when the clock ran out, thoughts turned inevitably to maybe the most obvious of sliding door moments a dozen minutes earlier.
At 13-8 down, Munster had been awarded a penalty in an eminently kickable position just outside the Leinster 22 and midway between centrefield and the touchline. The on-field generals deliberated at length before Conor Murray kicked to the corner.
Ultimately, they came up empty-handed from the raid.
Peter O’Mahony had no hesitation in defending the decision. As captain it was his call and he took full ownership of it. There was no liaising with hindsight there and then. No crystal ball to inform them. They rolled the dice and they lost.
Them’s the breaks.
“I felt like we had a lot of momentum,” said O’Mahony.
He added: “If we had gone down there and scored it would have been a big momentum changer obviously but we were a bit inaccurate at the lineout. That put us on the back foot then and we conceded a turnover penalty there.”
If O’Mahony rued anything it was the fact that they let Leinster establish that eight-point buffer in the first place although he was clearly proud of the mental strength his side displayed in clawing it back as they did.
Ultimately, however, it is a familiar tale of close but not close enough.
Defeat here made it a second semi-final loss this season. And a fourth in the last two campaigns.
“I have come in the middle of November so we will take our time to review and plan for pre-season,” said head coach Johann van Graan. “We said from day one we are not going to change in the first six months. We move our plan a bit forward.
“Execution is something we want to work on. We got very close against the two teams that played the final in Europe: a five-point game and a one-point game. So, one score in it. That’s rugby, unfortunately.
“Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t. We want to improve and compete against all the trendsetters in Europe. You’ve got give credit where it is due, take it on the chin and move on.”