A BLOW TO Munster’s season, but not one that head coach Rob Penney will allow to derail his team in the build-up to next weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulouse at Thomond Park.
Munster were 22-18 losers to Leinster in Dublin last night, a result that sees the eastern province extend their Pro12 lead to five points with four regular season games remaining.
Penney was gracious in defeat, pointing out that Leinster had the edge in a high-intensity game such as that in the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
“I’m disappointed but a bit proud at the same time. We came for a good old tussle and Leinster were bloody good. We struggled a little bit and the intensity we have been playing at in the long break that we have had leading into this game wasn’t the ideal preparation for us.
That certainly is a great lead-in for us for next weekend. We had our moments, we weren’t clinical enough but that’s indicative of not playing at that intensity for a while.”
While the pre-match insistence from both camps was vehement in underlining that all eyes were focused on this league encounter, rather than the looming Heineken Cup clashes, Penney suggested afterwards that those words had been contrived.
The Kiwi claimed that his players had naturally been somewhat distracted by the forthcoming and all important showdown with Toulouse.
“No matter how much you try to talk about staying in the present and dealing with one step at a time, it is only natural that their focus sometimes wanders to what is on the horizon.
“It being such a big match next week, I was really pleased with what the boys tried to deliver.”
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
Penney did admit that his squad were “not in a happy place” last night, as after any loss to Leinster, before revealing his relief at having no fresh injury concerns beyond Peter O’Mahony and Damien Varley ahead of next weekend.
Munster’s unhappiness with their display in Dublin was rooted in the fact that Leinster enjoyed sustained periods of possession, wearing down the southern province’s defence and ultimately allowing them to manufacture Brian O’Driscoll’s try.
“I think Leinster held onto the ball a bit better. We were defending well and creating pressure and they were knocking balls on, losing the ball in the tackle and turnovers.
But once they started to get a bit of consistency and continuity going, they were difficult to stop. They put a few waves together; that sucks the legs and energy out of you when you have wave after wave of attack coming at you like they were.
“They worked their way back, got a couple of penalties and obviously after half-time they had a good 15 or 20 minutes, scoring that try which was a decisive one.”
There is “a lot of footy to go” this season for Penney’s Munster side, starting next weekend. Onwards and upwards.