'The decisions with the cards and stuff - I didn't say anything to the ref' - Johnny Sexton
Ticket touts looking for some match currency on the approaches to Thomond Park last night suggested this was not your bog-standard Christmas ding-dong derby. And so it proved. Things got out of hand early and frequently, though, with three cards shown before the break, and a player carted off injured from foul play, the second half had a different vibe to it.
This was a win Munster badly needed for a few reasons, but in the analysis they will question why it took them so long to put Leinster away. Leo Cullen's side lost both props, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong, on yellow cards, before then saying goodbye for the night to James Lowe after he upended Andrew Conway in the air.
Soon enough after it was all over those involved looked calm and relaxed. In the half hour or so before either team shows up for the media stuff usually they have got their breath back and rehearsed what they're going to say.
In the circumstances, with a disciplinary hearing for James Lowe this week, Leinster were hardly going to come in firing bullets at the referee.
"We're pleased with the way the guys stuck at it — like, it's very difficult to win rugby matches when you concede a red card and two yellows inside the first 32 minutes," Cullen said.
And the colour of the cards whatever about the cards themselves?
"It doesn't really matter what I think — it's a matter of what the referee thinks because he's the one who makes the decisions on the field so we just have to go with what the referee says. He's the one who's got the cards in his pocket — not me."
His captain, Johnny Sexton, was Zen-like.
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Read more here:
- Munster hold firm in bruising battle with Leinster
- Johann Van Graan hails Munster calm as Leo Cullen laments Leinster discipline
"The decisions with the cards and stuff — I didn't say anything to the ref," Sexton said. "James's was obviously accidental but by the letter of the law it's red and with the other two guys — yellow cards, that was all. It was only one decision I argued with: obviously I got a penalty against me for retaliation and then 10 minutes later they retaliated against us and there was no reversal. There was no other decisions I really had a problem with — maybe James Ryan's one late in the first half where the ball squirts out and we got penalised for that."
For Sexton, it was a little ground lost in the Pro14 but a lesson learned on the need to keep 15 men on the field — especially with Toulouse around the corner in Europe. Munster, meantime, were disciplined — "we kept our cool for the third week in a row," Johann van Graan said — but they need to be so much better going forward.