Defence forces the issue for Leinster

Leinster 17 Munster 15

But that’s not Kidney’s style and, always the pragmatist, he reckoned Munster played enough rugby to have shaded this enthralling contest at Donnybrook on Saturday evening.

But as Kidney pointed to Leinster’s heroic defence being the key to winning this battle, Munster counterpart Alan Gaffney had yet to come to terms with his side succumbing to two first half sucker punches that yielded two tries for Leinster and ultimately sent Munster crashing to their second defeat from three matches.

“For the amount of defending we had to do in the second half I reckon we would have been punch drunk. The turning point was the final whistle,” declared Kidney.

“Some of the defending was extraordinary, around the fringes and out wide. Munster were very positive in the way they played but we took full advantage of their turnovers and then hung in there to secure the win.”

Yet, while Leinster scored a couple, Munster’s Gaffney recognises that it wasn’t so much down to bad defending as unwise decisions in attack that led to the downfall.

Munster held most of the possession and probably had 70% territorial advantage in the opening half, yet found themselves 3-17 down at the break.

“I think the turnover count was 14-3 in the first half. That isn’t acceptable and it was soul-destroying to be that far adrift at the break after winning so much possession,” he said.

“We have a lot of work to do in the contact area because this isn’t the first time this season that we’ve lost hard-won possession so easily.”

If Gaffney was less than happy, returnee Frankie Sheahan’s only joy was that he came through his first Munster game of the season unscathed.

“We hit back well in the second half from what appeared to be an impossible situation but we really should have wrapped the game up.

Sheahan bemoaned the fact that one of his colleagues lost his footing in a driving maul 10 minutes from the end, a slip that ultimately may have cost Munster a match-winning score.

“I was at the back and in possession and I was sure that we would make it to the line but it collapsed a yard or two from the target.

“It was a pity, but we created our own problems because we gave away those soft tries in the first half and that’s the most annoying aspect of the defeat. It’s one thing to concede scores under pressure but another to give them away when you appear to be in control.”

“Full credit to Leinster for taking their chances, but really the tries were created from silly mistakes inside their half.”

The first of those came after 14 minutes when Munster’s daring move broke down inside the Leinster 22 and the turnover ball was swept out wide to Gary Brown, who cut inside Christian Cullen to grab the opening try that Brian O’Meara converted.

O’Meara went on to play a significant role in Leinster’s win and he converted a further try four minutes later. This time the glory went to James Norton and the villain of the piece was Munster scrum half Eoin Reddan who failed to hold possession after the ball was hacked through.

Denis Hickie loomed and managed to get his foot to the loose ball, but Norton was there to kick it on and get the touchdown. O’Meara kicked a 32nd minute penalty and Munster’s only source of joy was a penalty from Paul Burke minutes from the break.

It was all Munster after that but after scorning a couple of try scoring opportunities it was left to Burke, with four penalties, to edge them close.

LEINSTER: J. Norton, J. McWeeney, C. Warner, D. Quinlan, G. Brown, D. McAllister, B. O’Meara, E. Byrne, G. Hickie, P. Coyle, L. Cullen (captain), B. Gissing, A. McCullen, D. Dillon, S. Jennings. Replacements. D. Hickie for McWeeney (11, injured), R. Nebett for Coyle (51), v. Costello for Dillon (52), G. Easterby for McAllister (58).

MUNSTER: C. Cullen, J. Kelly, S. Payne, J. Holland, A. Horgan, P. Burke, E. Reddan, G. McIlwham, F. Sheahan, J. Hayes, T. Bowman, T. Hogan, D. Leamy, J. Williams (captain), D. Wallace. Replacements. R. Henderson for Holland (56), M. Prendergast for Reddan (58), S. Keogh for Williams (78, injured), J. Flannery for Sheahan (81, injured).

Referee:H. Watkins (Wales).

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