Friday 23 August 2019

'Discipline' costs Munster as Van Graan insists Munster will come back stronger

Munster players Niall Scannell, John Ryan, and Dave Kilcoyne leave the field
Munster players Niall Scannell, John Ryan, and Dave Kilcoyne leave the field
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There are many aspects of Munster's poor performance that will make for grim viewing in next week's review and chief amongst the frustrations will be their woeful lack of discipline.

On an afternoon when the gap between themselves and Leinster widened even further, Munster's attack failed to fire a realistic shot as the amount of work that is desperately needed over the summer was laid bare.

Sloppy penalty concessions, 13 to be exact, will hinder any team at any level, let alone one who is attempting to beat the PRO14 champions in their own back-yard.

Time and time again, Munster's discipline went out the window as they were stifled by a Leinster side who for the second year running dispatched of their old foes en route to the league final.

"Discipline," Johann van Graan said bluntly, when asked what the key difference today was.

"They started off in the first two minutes with a penalty. We were straight back to 3-3. I thought we played some really good rugby in the first half.

"They got that penalty on the stroke of half-time to give them a three-point lead. Straight after half-time we conceded that yellow card and in the 10th minute of that yellow card they scored their try and we fell behind to 19-9 and then the penalty count was something like 13-6.

"You can't concede 13 penalties in an away semi-final."

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To concede 13 penalties, some of which were totally unnecessary, was indicative of a team, who seemed to have lost their way.

"The message is we will come back stronger next year," Van Graan continued.

"Firstly, we will review this game in the coming week. The effort and attitude I can't fault.

"They gave it everything out there. Unfortunately we got beaten by a better team on the day.

"We did some really good things but you can't give them 13 times that they go to a lineout from a penalty and then they put you under pressure and you've got to defend in your own half against a quality team like Leinster."

A forlorn Peter O'Mahony sat alongside his head coach and his facial expression said it all. The Munster skipper would happily have had the ground swallow him up.

He has been in this same position too many times in the last few years. He is sick to the stomach of learning lessons.

"You can't come to somewhere like Leinster and concede 13 penalties, a lot of them in crucial moments as well, either kickable or we had them under pressure in their 22 and a big release-valve," O'Mahony said, echoing Van Graan.

"We were playing some great rugby as well. They certainly played well as well, I'm not taking away from that.

"Their ability to keep the ball going forward, certainly for some of those penalties, we were under pressure, on the back foot, but some of them were silly as well. We don't have any arguments.

"Look, we've had huge positives this year. We've taken big steps forward, as have other teams obviously.

"It would be a different animal me sitting here and we were out of Europe in the group stages and we didn't progress in the latter stages of this.

"We're doing a lot of things right, we just need to figure where we can get the extra per cent or two."

The rebuild job on Van Graan's hands will be a major challenge. He must quickly act to sign a new backroom team, while he insists that Munster are unlikely to bring in any new players long-term. That however, remains to be seen.

The attacking game-plan was again non-existent as Leinster ruthlessly exposed Munster's decencies in an area that has hurt them too often this season.

"We could have built more pressure," Van Graan insisted.

"We got a few penalties and you have to use your opportunities. I felt that in the second half there were a few big moments - that charge-down off Rory (Scannell), it just didn't bounce up.

"Then Joey kicked it into the corner and it rolled out, they get a five-yard lineout and we concede a penalty straight away. I'm going to go back, once again, to discipline.

"It wasn't good enough from the whole group on the day and you've got to finish those opportunities in a semi-final. It's soft exits and we've got to take that on the chin.

"We must learn as a group. I said it at the beginning - if we lose, it starts with the coach and we've got to be better.

"I can't fault the effort and the attitude of the players but we've got to be able to execute under pressure as a group.

"It was a penalty literally on the stroke of half time which gave them the momentum, similar to our previous semi-final, and then the yellow card cost us 10 points.

"I thought we managed the first nine minutes of the yellow card pretty well and then literally right at the end, they got that try.

"We were 10 points down, had to play a bit more and kept the ball for multiple phases but again, the defence of Leinster are very good."

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