David Corkery: Munster need to use Leinster win as a springboard

With two more provincial derbies coming up, Reds can't afford to rest on their laurels
David Corkery: Munster need to use Leinster win as a springboard

Peter O'Mahony of Munster wins possession in the lineout against Ryan Baird of Leinster at the RDS Arena. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

AT last, a victory against Leinster.

It might have taken seven attempts to turn the tide but for everyone in the Munster camp, this victory is extremely significant and will allow them to sleep at night.

In terms of relevance, this new Rainbow Cup is a bit pointless, yet for Munster, it afforded them a much-needed opportunity to remove a very tenacious monkey off their backs. It's even given Johann van Graan a lifeline.

You can argue the fact this was Leinster’s second-string side and Munster were fully locked and loaded. However, when your trophy cabinet has been gathering nothing but cobwebs for a decade and your most potent rivals have amassed six straight wins against you, all that matters is the scoreboard when the final whistle is sounded.

Joey Carbery of Munster kicks a penalty. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Joey Carbery of Munster kicks a penalty. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

With Leinster prioritising their European Champions Cup semi-final against La Rochelle next weekend, Leo Cullen and his coaching staff were always going to field a mix of youth and experience for this game.

Under no circumstances was this a weak Leinster side that Munster had to deal with, but what it lacked was experience in key areas and they were simply not capable of dealing with Munster’s energy and ferocity at the breakdown. For the first time in a long time, Munster looked hungry and they were not about to give their critics another opportunity to condemn their every move.

Clearly targeting the Leinster breakdown, Munster were aggressively contesting at nearly every ruck and in doing so put massive pressure on the young Leinster number nine, Hugh O’Sullivan. 

He found himself isolated on many occasions and the normal protection that all Leinster number nines receive was nowhere to be seen.

When you look at how Leinster have traditionally played over the last few years, what you will have noticed is that their nine and their 10 are presented with a very clean and rapid supply of ball. As the main fulcrum between forwards and backs O’Sullivan, found himself having to do the job of his forwards instead.

I can guarantee you that if Luke McGrath and Johnny Sexton were on the receiving end of such domination at ruck time, the Leinster forwards would have been read the riot act by Sexton and told to front up or get off the field.

Another facet of play that has been missing from Munster’s game was their line-speed in defence.

The modern game has taken defensive principles from the rugby league version of the sport and if you have a defensive strategy that is fully aligned and can transgress offside by working in harmony, what you have is a team that will thwart most attacks launched against them.

Munster’s starting defensive line was well offside on numerous occasions but they were all offside at the same time, thus tricking the officials. It was clever and brilliant and it’s about time Munster started using their noggins again.

Rugby is by far one of the most disciplined sports you could ever play, but the higher the level you play at, the more accomplished you must be at twisting the rules and not getting caught. Historically, the best side in the world at bending the laws have been the All Blacks; that is why they are the best.

Damian De Allende, Munster’s World Cup-winning South African centre had a blinder in this game and through a combination of his strength and off-loading capabilities he forged many a hole in Leinster’s first up tackle line, which allowed for his support runners to feed off him.

One such recipient of De Allende’s sublime offloading was Connor Murray who bagged himself two tries.

Munster's Damien de Allende. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Munster's Damien de Allende. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Murray, who will be hoping to make the cut for the Lions tour to South Africa in the summer, also had a great game. It was a pleasure and a relief, not to see him kick away every ball that his forwards supplied him with.

The road that lies ahead for Munster is a very long and arduous one, and just because they managed to beat Leinster on this occasion doesn’t mean their struggles are a thing of the past.

What they must do now is, use this win as a starting point and not rest on their laurels.

Their next two games are away to Ulster and home to Connacht. Win these two and suddenly you have a bit of momentum that can be carried forward for the bigger occasions.

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