Toner injury a blow as Leinster ease into final
By the time Leinster run out to what Guinness Pro14 hope will be a 40,000 crowd in Celtic Park next Saturday, the memory of losing to Saracens will have receded a bit further. They started the season as European and Pro14 champions but will have to settle for the second half of that if they can beat Glasgow.
They are virtually certain to be doing that without Devin Toner, who was helped off the field with a knee injury in yesterday’s semi-final win against Munster. The extent of the knock will be clearer after a scan, but he looked in a fair bit of trouble on the way off.
Leo Cullen, happy enough that his team are back in another final, appeared to have tongue in cheek when framing the final as a call to arms for Irish fans.
“Hopefully we’ll have a good crowd of Leinster supporters over there,” he said. “Glasgow rugby players all support Rangers I’ve been told so the Celtic fans in Glasgow should be supporting us. Hopefully, we’ll have a good crowd over there.”
The fact that Celtic have business of their own to attend to in the Scottish Cup final might get in the way of that, but you could see where he was coming from. And you could see what his team were about as well. They took full advantage of a yellow card for Munster hooker Niall Scannell and dominated the game in the second half having turned over only three points ahead at the break.
For Munster, it was yet another dead end in a semi-final.
“Look, we’ve had huge positives this year,” captain Peter O’Mahony said after a game where his side had failed to score a try. “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.”
They conceded 13 penalties to Leinster’s seven, and those concessions gave the home side regular entry points into the game.
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“The message is we will come back stronger next year,” said coach Johann van Graan. “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.”
He may have been a bit off with that stat but you could see where he’s coming from. Munster, reeling from the uncertainty in their coaching team, have a lot to fix.