Friday 18 October 2019

'I have to make those calls' - Peter O'Mahony defends decision to kick to corner in endgame

Peter O’Mahony wins a lineout from Devin Toner during yesterday’s Pro 14 semi-final at the RDS. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony wins a lineout from Devin Toner during yesterday’s Pro 14 semi-final at the RDS. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony defended his decision to kick for the corner when his side trailed 13-8 on the scoreboard with 12 minutes remaining.

The decision proved costly as Munster failed to come away with any points, which ultimately allowed Leinster to see out the game and secure a place in next weekend's Guinness PRO14 final.

Before Conor Murray kicked the ball into touch, rather than take a shot at goal, there was a discussion amongst leadership group, which included the scrumhalf, O'Mahony and CJ Stander.

At one point, Murray looked as if he was about the line up the shot at goal, but the skipper however insisted that the responsibility ultimately rested on his shoulders.

"It's easy to say in hindsight but there are decisions to be made out there after 65 minutes of rugby," a disappointed O'Mahony said. "That's my call. I have to make those calls, do you know what I mean?"

Asked to explain his thought process around the big call, O'Mahony responded: "I felt like we had a lot of momentum. We were winning a lot of collisions. We were going well up the field. That was my decision at the time, that's the way I felt it was going.

"Look, if we had gone there and scored, it would have been a big momentum-changer obviously, but we were inaccurate at the lineout. That put us on the back foot then and we conceded a turnover penalty there for holding on."

A second semi-final defeat in four weeks has left Munster without any silverware this season, and while they will take comfort from the fact that they pushed Leinster close in their own back yard, the players will feel that this was one that got away.

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Johann van Graan's side had their chances but their inaccuracy let them down at crucial times, and their discipline was poor as they struggled to get to grips with South African referee Stuart Berry.

"Leinster are setting the standard in Europe and in this competition," O'Mahony maintained. "We came out here and said we would leave nothing out here and we didn't. There were inaccuracies there certainly, which luckily for us are things we can fix.

"If we had come out here and rolled over, that would have been a different story. That's something you can't fix. We fought until the end. You go eight points down, you go back up the way and score a try under the posts and you give yourself another shot to win the game.

"It takes a lot of mental ability and strength to do that but, as I said to Johann, we can't let that happen, that eight-point gap is too big."

Van Graan echoed his captain's sentiments, admitting that Leinster are the team to beat, as the head coach faces a big summer attempting to close the gap to their arch rivals.

"Look, I've come in, in the middle of November," the South African said.

"We will take our time to review, our planning for pre-season is well under way. We said from day one, we are not going to change a lot in the first six months. I think we moved our plan a bit forward like you saw out there today.

"Obviously our execution is something that we want to work on. We got very close to the two teams that played in the final in Europe. It was a five-point game and a one-point game. It's one score in it. All credit to the players, they fought right until the end. That's rugby unfortunately.

"We want to improve. Leinster are currently the trend-setters in Europe. Obviously they are the team to beat. It's very disappointing. There is nothing bittersweet in this, it is only bitter."

The mood music in the Leinster camp was altogether more positive as they eye up an historic European and domestic double.

Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney and Dan Leavy are due to return to face the Scarlets, while Leo Cullen is also hopeful Isa Nacewa will be fit enough to play his final game before retiring.

"I thought the players showed unbelievable character," Cullen reflected.

"We were limited in terms of our preparation time for the game, so I think the character that they showed is the most pleasing aspect of the performance.

"It was far from a perfect performance but there were plenty of good things on show out there. The guys fronted up physically against Munster, who I thought brought a huge amount to the contest.

"They were very physical, very direct, strong in the air - all the qualities that we know they have. So from our end, the thing that pleased me most was the character that the team showed."

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