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Dublin: 22 °C Tuesday 19 June, 2018
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'That's my call': O'Mahony felt Munster had enough momentum to turn down shot at posts

Munster were left to rue their inaccuracy and indiscipline at the RDS as they suffered further semi-final heartache.

O'Mahony dejected at full-time.
O'Mahony dejected at full-time.
Image: Brendan Moran

Ryan Bailey reports from the RDS

FOR MUNSTER, THIS was a cruel and bitterly disappointing end to a season which promised much but has ultimately concluded without any silverware and more questions over their big-game pedigree.

The southern province’s barren period without a trophy now stretches back to 2011 and, like Bordeaux a few weeks ago, there was further semi-final pain for Johann van Graan’s side here as they were edged out by the narrowest of margins.

Munster will leave Dublin this evening with plenty of regrets, not least over their inaccuracies in the first-half and indiscipline throughout a ding-dong battle, but also frustration over not taking their chances and a moment of madness from Jean Kleyn just before half-time.

The visitors dominated large spells of possession and territory (they had 60% of the latter) but the marginal calls and key moments went against them as Leinster, inspired by James Ryan and man-of-the-match James Lowe, dug deep for the second week running to eek out a win which keeps their double dream alive.

Leo Cullen’s side do the basics well and their superior skillset and clinical edge was evident here, with Munster giving away 14 penalties and seeing their efforts to gain a foothold in a thrilling contest undermined by poor execution.

“Both teams really wanted to win and there was one point in it and unfortunately one point is the biggest and the smallest margin in rugby,” a dejected van Graan said afterwards.

“There were one or two moments we created, there was a massive moment in the left hand corner in the second half and unfortunately it didn’t go our way. Very happy with the opportunities we created, possibly work on our execution but it’s finished now.”

The Munster head coach said he would take a closer look at the incident which saw Kleyn sin-binned just before the break for a dangerous and reckless clear out of Ross Byrne at ruck time, but admitted in a semi-final of this magnitude losing a player ‘will cost you.’

Conor Murray dejected after the game Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Trailing 10-3 at the break, the southern province started the second half with 14 men but reduced the deficit to just two when Keith Earls crossed in the corner, and with the Munster forwards beginning to dominate the momentum was shifting.

But there were two key moments in the second half.

Firstly, Munster felt Jordan Larmour was in an offside position as he scrambled back to gather the loose ball after Joey Carbery had knocked it on in the far left corner, with CJ Stander then penalised for using his feet in the ruck by referee Stuart Berry.

Conor Murray instantly appealed to the officials, audibly telling the referee that Larmour was offside, but to no avail as Leinster survived on their own line to clear.

“I didn’t see, I ended up in that ruck but I didn’t see what happened behind me,” O’Mahony said of that particular incident.

“I can’t really comment on it. He [the referee] said something about someone used their foot in the ruck.

“We put Jordan under pressure, I got up and counter rucked and thought we stayed on our feet and did well but obviously someone didn’t.”

Then O’Mahony was asked about his decision to turn down a shot at goal with 13 minutes left on the clock, and just five points in it.

Carbery’s long-range attempt fell short and then Munster instantly turned the screw to win a penalty at the breakdown after Cian Healy illegally came through, but the visitors oddly opted against a kickable shot at goal.

Instead, Murray kicked for the corner and although they managed to retain possession with a scrappy lineout, Leinster’s replacement hooker James Tracy then forced a huge turnover on the far side of the pitch a couple of phases later.

“It’s easy to say in hindsight but there are decisions to be made out there, after 65 minutes of rugby, you know what I mean? That’s my call, I’ve got to make those calls,” the Munster captain said.

“I felt like we had a lot of momentum and we were winning a lot of collisions and going well up the field. That was my decision at the time and that’s the way I felt it was going.

Jordan Larmour tackled by Peter O'Mahony Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“If we had have gone down there and scored it would have obviously been a big momentum changer but we were inaccurate at the line out and it put us on the back foot then and conceded a penalty for holding on.”

As it was, Leinster extended their lead through the boot of Carbery and while Munster brought themselves within a point of the hosts through Grobler’s 79th minute try, the visitors were to fall agonisingly short again.

“I came in in the middle of November so we’ll take our time to review,” van Graan said, while also adding JJ Hanrahan was withdrawn at half-time due to injury.

“Our planning for pre-season is well underway but we said from day one we’re 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 execution is something that we want to work on.

“We got very close against the two teams that got to the final in Europe and it was a five-point game and one-point game. It was one score in it, all credit to the players for fighting to the end. That’s rugby unfortunately, sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t.

“We want to improve as Leinster are the trendsetters in Europe and obviously they’re the team to beat. Like I said before, obviously very disappointing, there’s nothing bittersweet in this, it’s only bitter. You’ve got to take it on the chin and move on.”

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Ryan Bailey

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