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Van Graan: We've work to do to reach Leinster level

By Simon Lewis

A derby defeat at home is enough to darken the mood, but Munster captain Peter O’Mahony and his head coach Johann van Graan know that Leinster have provided the benchmark to which they will have to measure up if this season is to be a success.

A deeply disappointing first-half performance on St Stephen’s Day as Munster ceded a 27-5 lead to their arch rivals sucked the Christmas cheer out of a sell-out Thomond Park on a bitterly cold late afternoon in Limerick and though Munster rallied to 27-19 shortly after the interval, Leinster’s own resilience married to the attacking verve of academy full-back Jordan Larmour consigned O’Mahony’s side to a first defeat since van Graan’s arrival in November.

There was the cold comfort of a try bonus point but the 10-point margin of defeat gives Munster plenty to ponder ahead of the New Year’s day trip to Ulster.

“There’s always something special about derbies and you never want to lose one so yeah, it’s difficult,” O’Mahony said.

“The (supporters) come out and spend a lot of money to see you play and we expect to win. We expect to win every single game we play but to lose at home is disappointing and it’s disappointing in the fashion we showed in the first 40 minutes.”

O’Mahony conceded that the damage was done in that opening half, when the home side lost Andrew Conway to the sin bin for 10 minutes and were on the ropes after just 23 minutes of play.

“It’s hard to put my finger on it now, I’ll have to look back but it just felt like we didn’t get any bounce of the ball,” the blindside flanker said.

Though further reflection saw him revise that opinion to afford more credit to Leinster. “That’s unfair, they played very well and their game plan was very effective and we struggled to get down on the 50-50s. We just struggled to contain them.”

Overall, the Munster captain admitted he was “very impressed” by the province’s traditional rivals.

“They’re always a very good side and you know every year it’s difficult; you know it’s always a big game and they’ve proved over the last few weeks how good they are and to come out this week and put a performance in like that in the first 40 is impressive.”

O’Mahony’s view echoed van Graan’s assessment when the head coach said of Leinster: “A year ago when I was in South Africa I watched them play games, week in and week out.

“Quality coaching, such big squad depth, 10 internationals in their forwards alone. A guy like Jordan Larmour the full-back, he really impressed me, he looks like he has been playing for years.

“I’m very impressed by them. I think in this PRO14 they are definitely the side to beat. We said in the changing room we know now where we are, 10 points behind them in this one and we were seven short in the previous game (23-17 losers at the Aviva Stadium on October 7).

“We need to adjust. We might see them late in the competition again but we have got a lot of hard work in front of us to get to their level.”

This article first appeared in today's Irish Examiner.