WELCOME to the new and horrible world of rugby football.
Two red cards, three yellows, and 29 penalties in just over 40 minutes of play.
Yet World Rugby think they are doing a good job by continuing to modify and tinker with the laws? Please!
Some may think that the ref might just have been having a whistle-happy day but if Frank Murphy had 100% administrated the game to the letter of the law there would have been another red — Munster’s Chris Clute for a late, high tackle — and at least five more technical penalties.
So please don’t blame Murphy for this shambles. Blame the blazers who seem to do nothing else but look at ways of slowing the game down and making it more technical, and thus more difficult to understand and confusing to play.
I’m also going to refer to the lack of creative nous from both sides as we had to sit and watch a barrage of first-phase runners smashing headfirst into solid walls of defenders.
Even when both sides were reduced to 13 each, the preferred option was to give the ball to the biggest and strongest runner to see just how hard he could smash into his opposing defender. It’s brain-dead stuff, and we wonder why the sport is infested with concussion-related injuries.
If the pen-pushers want to do something constructive in an attempt to make the game better to watch and safer to play, why don’t they just reduce the tackle height to below the waistband on the shorts? Not only would it allow for players to offload the ball with more freedom and create a continuity-focused sport, but it would also completely eradicate all the uncertainties that referees have to consider when determining if a tackle is legal or not.
The game that we are forced to sit and watch now is nothing more than a watered-down version of rugby league that adopts the laws of the schoolyard game bulldog. Where in the name of all that is holy has the wily and cunning coaching gone?
When will we ever have the privilege of watching players with the creative genius of Brian O’Driscoll, the tactful instinctiveness of Ronan O’Gara, or the boldness of Simon Zebo, who wasn’t prepared to play within the rigid confines of Joe Schmidt’s game plan?
It kills me to see players like Keith Earls and Andrew Conway sitting miles from the ball when all they want to do is run and look to exploit even the smallest of chinks in the defending armouries.
Yesterday’s game will unquestionably be remembered for all the wrong reasons, but the result — which was never really in doubt after the two red cards for Connacht — is something that Munster will happily carry forward into next Friday’s semi-final with Leinster.
A loss would have been disastrous for van Graan and his players, especially when you are looking to defeat the most successful side in the northern hemisphere.
Leinster, who decisively finished off their pool campaign with a 28-10 victory over Ulster on Saturday night, now go into this Guinness Pro 14 semi-final having somehow won their last 23 games in all competitions.
Leo Cullen and his players have almost forgotten what it feels like to sit in a losing changing room.
It is going to take one hell of a performance to knock them from their perch.
I am a firm believer that winning or losing is largely a habitual trait that most sides carry with them into all venues, and when Leinster played poorly, as they did against Munster two weeks ago, they still managed to grind out an ugly win that kept their now record-breaking run firmly on track.
When you’ve won that many games on the bounce, there is a new level of confidence and control that runs through your veins and if Munster don’t look to deploy some kind of new strategic plays to their very readable game plan, Leo Cullen and his players will be looking for their 25th unbroken victory soon after the final whistle next Friday.
On a positive note for Munster, it seems that they didn’t add any more players to their litany of long-term injuries.
Peter O’Mahony did pick up a knock to the shoulder, and it remains to be seen if Chris Clute side-steps a citing for his late/high infringement.
However, other than that, van Grann should be able to choose from the same squad he had for this game.
Of those who impressed and will be screaming for a starting jersey are Fineen Wycherley and Tadhg Beirne.
Wycherley’s name has been bandied about for some time now, and it is time he is given the opportunity to show what he can do in a very pressurised environment.
Beirne who was awarded man of the match has just returned from a long-term injury, and van Grann has no option but to start the former Leinster workhorse.
When Munster lost to Leinster last weekend, they cited a few missed opportunities as the reason they finished second and felt they were unlucky with a few bounces of the ball.
Well, if this was the case, they now have a magnificent opportunity to set the record straight.