Another night of the blues for ragged Munster

Munster 7 Leinster 24: No booing, not even an ironic cheer, just a quiet, frustrated resignation from Thomond Park regulars that things are getting worse rather than better for Munster.
Another night of the blues for ragged Munster

That it was arch interprovincial rivals Leinster that inflicted a fifth straight loss on Anthony Foley’s side, and a third home defeat in a row, made this reverse all the more galling for the vast majority of a 25,600 Limerick crowd.

Leinster may have made more than twice as many tackles as Munster and enjoyed a minority of both territory and possession, but for all the home side’s dominance it was the men in Blue who deserved a victory that leapfrogs them over their rivals into the Guinness Pro12 top four.

Their defensive rearguard was superb to limit Munster’s 63% possession to a single Robin Copeland try just before half-time and keep Foley’s team to two scoreless second halves in consecutive weeks.

Not for the first time this month, even a kick from in front of the posts proved beyond the home side as the otherwise impressive Rory Scannell, starting at inside centre instead of Denis Hurley, missed his first shot at goal into a strong wind on eight minutes, failing to cut into an early, clinically secured 7-0 Leinster lead.

It was a blistering break from 21-year-old centre Garry Ringrose for Isa Nacewa’s fourth-minute try that did it, born out a great defensive turnover in Leinster’s own half.

Tomas O’Leary, another late promotion to the Munster XV after Conor Murray failed a late fitness test on a hip pointer injury, was pounced on by Jamie Heaslip and had the ball ripped from him by Dominic Ryan.

That led to a strong Sean O’Brien carry and the pass to Ringrose who burned past Jack O’Donoghue before showing great composure to feed Nacewa to score under the posts.

Copeland’s try came after Munster had twice been held up by Leinster hands but the blindside flanker succeeded where Mike Sherry and Francis Saili had come up short, powering over through an Eoin Reddan tackle under the posts. Scannell this time found his range and Munster went in at the break much happier at just 7-10 down.

The feeling inside the Munster camp was something special was around the corner but getting past the apex remains frustratingly difficult for head coach Foley, who must return to the training field ahead of another derby next weekend at Ulster.

The second-half against Leinster provided more of the same futility in attack Munster had shown in successive weeks against Champions Cup rivals Leicester, as Foley witnessed his players increase the turnovers conceded tally up to 17, 10 from knock-ons.

Leinster were grateful recipients and established daylight when a series of pick and gos from the pack, completed by Jack McGrath after fly-half Ian Madigan had shown great vision to send a crossfield kick across to left wing Nacewa, sending defenders scrambling with it.

The playmaker, wanted by several clubs and linked heavily with a move to Munster at Ian Keatley’s expense, when his contract next summer expires, slotted a conversion from left of the posts to send the score to 17-7.

The final Leinster blow came when Francis Saili sent a hopeful pass out to the right wing in the direction of Lucas Amorosino, only to see it picked off by Zane Kirchner, who raced the length of the field to apply the final cut, Madigan ending the game with his third conversion.

Saili had been wearing a player mic for the benefit of Sky Sports viewers but you did not need technology to understand his thoughts on the matter.Munster captain CJ Stander may not have experienced anything like this in his three years in Ireland but the South African-born back row knows what it is like to be part of a side struggling to keep its head above water.

“I was part of a team who lost 10 in a row and it’s rough, especially when you are used to winning and especially when you are captain,” Stander said.

“It’s a lot of pressure, you know. I reckon pressure forms diamonds and there’s a few boys that need to stand up and a few that need to start performing. I think if we gel as a team more we will turn the ship around (but) the ship is going towards the waterfall so we need to turn it around and head upstream from here.”

It could be a long and turbulent voyage.

MUNSTER:

A Conway; K Earls (L G Amorosino, 37), F Saili, R Scannell, S Zebo; T Bleyendaal (D Hurley, 60), T O’Leary (D Williams, 60); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne, 19), M Sherry (N Scannell, 64), J Ryan (M Sagario, 72); D Foley (B Holland, 62), Donnacha Ryan; R Copeland, J O’Donoghue (T O’Donnell, 60), CJ Stander - captain.

LEINSTER:

Z Kirchner; F McFadden, G Ringrose, L Fitzgerald, I Nacewa – captain; I Madigan, E Reddan; J McGrath (C Healy, 56, McGrath 74), S Cronin (J Tracy, 56), T Furlong (M Moore, 56); D Toner, T Denton (R Molony, 60); Dominic Ryan, S O’Brien (J van der Flier, 70), J Heaslip.

Replacements not used:

N McCarthy, C Marsh, D Kearney.

Referee:

David Wilkinson (IRFU)

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