SATURDAY at the Aviva reminded us why Leinster are the kings of European rugby.
In a game of this nature, nothing else really matters except what is displayed on the scoreboard when the final whistle is sounded; unfortunately for Munster, they finished with fewer points than their opponents.
There are not too many of us born outside the 12 counties of Leinster who will like to admit it, but there really is no argument of substance that can be put forward against the Blues' current reign. Even when they play below their normal clinical best, as they did here, they still manage to grind out victories that they have no right to.
This latest victory for the former 'ladyboys of Irish rugby' over their nearest and dearest marks their 22nd victory on the bounce in all competitions and it is an achievement that needs to be recognised for what it means for the game here.
It is imperative to remember that it has been 465 days since Leinster last tasted the bitterness of defeat and along that road, they have beaten teams like Edinburgh, Lyon, Glasgow, Northampton, Ulster, Connacht, Munster and all on a home and away basis.
This latest brick on Leo Cullen’s wall of victories which regrettably had to take place behind closed doors marked the restart of rugby and while it may not have been one of the greatest games, there was certainly no lacking in intensity by both sides.
As expected, none of the players were going to take a backward step in this game and I think the respective medical teams will be very busy for the next few days as they assess the many knocks and bruises that this encounter produced.
Sport is one of the greatest uncertainties that life has to offer us and no matter how well you think you may have prepared as a coaching team, it is just impossible to cater for all the probabilities that can materialise.
With less than seven minutes elapsed on the matchday clock Munster had two players Dave Kilcoyne and new signing RG Snyman receiving treatment in the dressing room and both Jeremy Loughman and Jean Kleyn found themselves launched from the bench and straight into what turned out to be a very confrontational encounter. This is a scenario that no coach wants to deal with that early in a game and to be fair Munster dealt with the circumstances really well.
The news of Joey Carbery’s latest injury setback which was announced last week was a big blow to Johan van Graan's plans, but when one door closes another one opens and for JJ Hanrahan the opportunity has allowed him to put in a very solid performance that both he and the province needed.
No matter who or what you have in your side, without a capable commander and proficient playmaker pulling the strings and guiding his troops around the park, all you really have is 14 headless rugby players who will end up making incorrect and irrational decisions.
Apart from Hanrahan’s placekicking which produced an almost perfect day in the office it was his ball distribution that impressed the most. Ever since the Kerry native returned from his stint with the Northampton Saints in 2017, he has blown hot and cold and whilst at 28 years of age his international aspirations may have come and gone, his presence in the red jersey could well be worth its weight in gold over the next few seasons.
Whether or not he can guide the club to medal-winning glory is yet to be seen, however, if he continues along the road he has chosen he could well be an integral part of Munster’s long-awaited resurgence.
Apart from emerging second best on this occasion, the most disappointing factor of the game was the injury to RJ Snyman. I’m not medically trained however, looking at how he descended from the line-out and landed with all his weight on one leg it could well be a serious ligament injury and if that is the case, we would be looking at months instead of weeks before we’ll see him again in a Munster jersey.
Snyman’s fellow Springbok teammate Damian de Allende who also earned his first Munster cap on the night had a solid game but no more than that. My big worry about pairing Chris Farrell and de Allende as a midfield partnership is that both players are very similar in how they go about breaking the gain line.
Both players are built like Sherman tanks and their blunt and brutal route one approach to winning territory will deprive Munster of the creativity that the modern game demands.
If there is anything positive that van Graan will take from a loss of this nature it will be that Munster have the firepower to challenge the best the game has to offer, but only if they mix their close in ball carriers with their wideout speedsters.
For god sake, get the ball to Keith Earls and Andrew Conway more often and let them play the instinctive game that makes them world-class international players.
The reality on this occasion is that Munster played out of their socks and still lost, whilst Leinster didn’t go beyond third gear.