Category Archives: Irish Rugby

Following Connacht, Leinster, Munster, & Ulster in Europe and the Pro14

Munster Lack Edge in Narrow Loss To Leinster

A rivalry as old as Irish Rugby itself. Munster once dominated and were the more feared side in Europe, with Leinster a side inflicted by the nearly-men curse. Those roles have been reversed in the last decade, with Leinster wins becoming more frequent in this fixture. While the side in the east of Ireland have lifted 3 League titles in a row and consistently challenging in Europe, it’s Munster who are now suffering a drought and losing games on big occasions. Connacht’s win in the RDS a few weeks ago should Leinster aren’t as invincible as the last year and a half of Pro14 games would suggest. Connacht were intense, energetic, and near flawless that day, bringing Leinster back down to Earth. Munster will have left the pitch on Saturday feeling they should have handed their provincial rivals a 2nd defeat of the season in what could be a League final preview.

Withe Leinster’s 10-13 win, the equaled the record for most consecutive wins in this fixture they set between 2009-2010 with 5 wins. Since Munster beat Leinster in the League Final in 2011, Munster have only won 5 of the 22 games between the sides. The Southern Province have only won once in the past 5 seasons, and have lost 3 semi-finals against Leinster on the Boys in Blue’s route to 3 league titles in a row. Getting to those League semi-finals shows that Munster are getting there, as those the 3-point scoreline and the fact that this is the 4th successive game between the sides that was quite close. But the 90-56 aggregate scoreline in favor of Leinster over the last 5 games, all Leinster wins, shows there is a gulf in class, one many Leinster fans could only dream of in the 00’s

Munster lead from the 5th minute when Hanrahan kicked a penalty until the 69th minute when Jordan Larmour crossed the line after a beautiful side step. Crucially, Munster’s last score was the conversion from Beirne’s try in the 12th minute. Despite having the better of much of the play, they were not clinical. If you fail to score for over an hour in a rugby match against a side that has dominated the league and has had your number, your liable to receive a gut punch. That gut punch game with 11 minutes to go after Ross Byrne did well to set up Larmour and respond to any complaints about him potentially being Ireland’s number 2 number 10 in the Six Nations.

The game was delicately poised, which suited Leinster more than Munster. It seems obvious to say, but if Munster had built a lead during their dominance early in the 2nd half they would have likely held on as Leinster were not having their best game. Munster looked to have the momentum when they won a turnover on their own line, and had the opportunity to make it a 10-point game with a penalty just before halftime. Agonizingly it hit the post, resulting in Leinster finding an attacking platform, winning a penalty, and scoring. A game that should have had a 10-point difference had a 4-point difference at the break. Munster had something to doubt themselves over, Leinster had proof that they were the more clinical side.

It’s an issue Ireland have faced at times over the past while. Having plenty of chances, not taking them, then receiving a hammer blow. The hammer-blow this time around was delivered by Larmour side-stepping his way over the line off a lineout play. Ross Byrne expertly landed the conversion to make sure Munster would need a try to win the game. Munster were deflated, Leinster, like great teams do, won a game where they were 2nd best for the majority.

The biggest game of the season is now Ulster v Leinster, which is a must win for Ulster to reach the final. If Ulster were to drop many points in their remaining games we’ll likely see a repeat of this fixture, possibly in the Aviva, at the end of the League campaign before a new era begins.

Connacht Bring Leinster Back Down To Earth

Connacht’s win on Saturday was landmark for a few reasons. It was Connacht’s first win away to Leinster in 19 years. It was the first time Leinster lost a game in the league since April 2019, a home defeat against Glasgow when Leinster had already guaranteed a home Semi-final. It also blows Conference A wide open. Leinster trail Ulster by 10 points, with two games in hand and with the sides to meet next week.

Connacht at their best

2016 must feel like a long time ago now to Connacht fans. That season they beat Leinster in the Pro14 final. Despite the improvement Pat Lam had made to the team, it still seemed like it was well ahead of it’s time. The hope from an Irish rugby point of view would have been the Western province which there was once talk of disbanding would now be competitive. Since then, despite appearing in the Champions Cup multiple times, the last few years would probably have been disappointing. They haven’t gotten particularly close to regaining their title.

Based on the game on Saturday, you would think it was Connacht, rather than Leinster, who had won the last 3 ProLeague titles. They showed an intensity similar to Japan in the last men’s World Cup, when the Brave Blossoms picked up a big win over Ireland. They managed to get a tricky balance of being ferocious in defense while remaining composed in attack. That’s a difficult feat when coming to the RDS on a 3-game losing run.

Jack Carty in particular was outstanding. He played as someone who was taking it personally that he had somewhat fallen out of contention for Ireland’s no.10 jersey. If he keeps it up it will be very difficult to look past him for the Six Nations which is still scheduled for next month. There were times it looked like we would get a comeback similar to the one Leinster produces in this fixture 2 seasons ago. But Andy Friend’s men kept producing an extra gear. Carty got 2 tries, converted 3, and kicked 3 penalties. Their other 2 tries were scored by Wootton and Daly.

Leinster’s wake-up call

Routine win after routine win can have a negative impact when it comes to playing big games. We’ve seen that in the Champions Cup the last two seasons. Blowing away teams in the league means when a tougher opponent with the know-how on how to win steps up, it can be difficult to go up a gear.

Leinster haven’t had to put in 80 minute performances to get a win. Often times it’s been a tight first half with Leinster producing a couple of scores between the 30th and 40th minute. Then early in the second half Leinster kill off the game. In games against bigger sides that hasn’t always been possible. If Leinster come up against an Exeter, Racing, or Toulouse this season it’ll have to be an 80 minute performance. Every team needs a reality check now and then. That’s what this is.

Particular important ahead of the game against Ulster, which will go a long way to determine who tops Conference A and gets to the final. There’s no 2nd chance in the league this year, it’s the top team in each conference and nobody else. Connacht kept their chances of getting there alive.