Friday 21 October 2016

Alan Quinlan: Basic errors cost Munster but the damage is certainly not beyond repair

Alan Quinlan

Published 10/10/2016 | 02:30

Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Munster’s Rory Scannell. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw is tackled by Munster’s Rory Scannell. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

If you don't protect the ball in rugby, you haven't got a hope and Leinster handed Munster a lesson in that.

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Leaving the Aviva on Saturday, there was plenty of disappointment and frustration amongst the Munster supporters but I couldn't help but feel that it wasn't as bad as it seemed.

Munster shot themselves in the foot with the amount of sloppy mistakes that they made. They lacked control and composure at crucial times and they paid the price for it.

The review session this morning won't be pretty but Munster will know that the errors they made are rectifiable before going to Paris on Sunday. The simple fact of that matter is that they have to or else their European journey will be over before it even gets started.

Munster were surprisingly sloppy at times in the contact area. They just didn't protect the ball enough and when you're up against a team as defensively good as Leinster are, you are leaving yourself facing an uphill battle.

If you look back at Leinster's first try; Munster had one exit strategy where they had a scrum. They were in a perfect position but they hit up the middle five yards out from their own line.

I'm a big fan of Rory Scannell but asking him to run into Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw, who are very, very strong defenders, was a poor strategy. Particularly when Munster had a solid platform to clear their line.

You've got to think on your feet and the split second that you get to decide if that is the right decision for not is crucial. In fairness to Scannell, he hasn't played in a while but there is an onus on the ball carrier that when you take the ball into contact like that, you have to make sure it comes back.

It didn't on this occasion and three minutes later Nacewa is going in for a soft try. To score off a scrum like that, as easy as that, is just poor defence. It's naive stuff.

In the second half for the second try, Munster lost their own lineout. They shortened it and had three dummy moves before overthrowing it. You're in your 22 and then you're hanging on for dear life. On both occasions Leinster punished Munster for not clearing their line when they had the opportunity.

The pass in the lead-up to the second try did look forward and that is what the TMO is there for. It was bizarre that it wasn't checked but ultimately it didn't decide the game. The game was decided by Munster's mistakes and Leinster being a little bit ahead of them at the moment.

The breakdown was always going to be crucial and Leinster excelled here on their own ball. They've got a bit of bite back and they gained a lot of momentum heading into the Castres game on Saturday.

Too often when Munster broke into Leinster territory, they turned the ball over. It doesn't ask any questions of the defence. Leinster were good but they didn't need to be very good.

When you get into the green zone, you've got to make it count on the scoreboard or at least ask serious questions of the defence. Sometimes three or four phases will do but more often you need to be willing to hold onto the ball for ten or 15 phases to get that crucial score.

In the first half, they had a great opportunity when they were close to the line and picking and going. It took me back to the final two minutes of last year's game.

They could have won it right at the death with a couple of passes that should have led to a try. They keep it pretty tight and they ended up losing it to a turnover. It's about being more ruthless and clinical in those areas and seeing where the space is.

At this level, you can't keep doing the same, predictable thing. You have to change it up and make the opposition work. They need to bring far more intensity against Racing.

Speaking of 'intensity', it's a shame that the Leinster-Munster has lost a little bit of the bite it had in the past.

During my time, there was always plenty of needle on and off the pitch. Guys remembered getting a thump or being knocked on their backside. It all built up over the years and created hatred. And it was bordering on hatred.

A lot these players are relatively new and maybe some of them are too nice to each other. You want to see drama in these games and I don't mean that in a nasty way. It's a long wait to get another crack at each other in December. Saturday's game should have been closer than it was.

Europe is going to be really difficult for Munster, there's no doubt about that, but to give themselves any chance, they have to cut out those basic errors.

I think this group are capable of big improvements so there is no need to panic yet. There is a lot at stake in the next couple of weeks.

Saturday was a setback but it wasn't one that Munster can't bounce back from this weekend.

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