Poite in line of fire

Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor buried his head in his hands in the wake of defeat to Munster but it was referee Romain Poite’s performance rather than his team’s which left him most frustrated at Thomond Park.

O’Connor, five games in to his reign since leaving Leicester Tigers and succeeding Joe Schmidt as Leinster boss, acknowledged his players had been second best in the 19-15 RaboDirect Pro12 loss to Munster but his body language betrayed his efforts to keep a lid on his bemusement at the French official’s handling of the scrum and breakdown in the interprovincial derby.

The Australian did not even have a complaint about his fly-half Ian Madigan’s sin-binning on the half-hour, leading to the penalty which produced the only try of the game for Munster’s Keith Earls. But when the subject of the breakdown arose during his post-match press conference, O’Connor’s non response told a story in itself.

“I can’t talk about that or I’ll get sacked! No comment,” he said.

He was more forthcoming about Poite’s officiating at the scrum, with the Leinster pack penalised at the first two engagements, followed by a lengthy lecture to captain Jamie Heaslip and loosehead prop Cian Healy.

“I found that very bizarre because it was fairly even if not dominance to us at that point so I found it very bizarre,” O’Connor said.

“The wheeling [of the scrum] at the end, he’s just got to be more consistent surely. He’s pinged us in front of the sticks and then there’s two or three that wheeled around and nothing happened.

“I mean it’s disappointing but that isn’t what cost us the result, that just added to the frustration.”

O’Connor said his players could have played the referee better at the breakdown, adding: “I don’t think we took the right options there. We were a little bit isolated which opens the door for Munster at the breakdown and we need to be a little bit more clinical where we went against them.

“There’s some significant lessons going forward in relation to managing the top referees, it’s an absolute brawl at the breakdown, it’s a lottery at the scrum. Now, you’ve got to protect yourself against that in Europe, otherwise you’ll come out at the wrong side of the ledger.”

Europe is what is next on the agenda with three-time Heineken Cup champions Leinster opening their pool campaign at Ospreys next Saturday and O’Connor said he was not overly concerned that defeat to Munster would carry over into the next challenge.

“It’s not the end of the world.

“It’s very disappointing to lose to Munster whenever that is, but they deserved it tonight. We’ve integrated blokes back into the set-up with new systems and new personnel in there from a coaching and a playing perspective.

“It’s not a bad place to be at, it’s a fast track for those international guys tonight because they come in at an intensity that would put us in a good place for next week.

“If you’re looking at bigger picture stuff it’s not the end of the world, we’ll dust ourselves off and make sure that we’re better next Saturday.”

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