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Analysis: Deception and work-rate key as Munster attack hints at progress

Johann van Graan’s men scored three tries thanks to sharp finishes in the Leinster 22.

Updated Aug 24th 2020, 8:01 PM

WHILE MUNSTER DID subject Leinster to a fair bit of blunt-force trauma with close-in carrying in their 22, there were some encouraging signs in how the southern province took their three tries on Saturday.

With senior coach Stephen Larkham in charge of their attacking play, Munster have been working hard to improve in this department and the first evidence on the restart of rugby indicates that they may be making some progress.

Two of their three tries last weekend came with Leinster down to 14 players due to Devin Toner’s sin-binning but Munster will take confidence from dotting down as many times as Leinster in an absorbing game that was decided on very fine margins. 

It took Munster 21 phases and over two minutes of pressure to finish their first try but the barrage eventually told just after a sharp pass from Conor Murray very nearly put Damian de Allende over for a debut try.

DDA

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This play from Munster, where Murray skips the obvious ball-carrying pair of forwards [white below] to hit a midfielder, is a common and useful tactic inside the 22, where defenders obviously bunch around the fringes of the ruck to stop narrow carries.

DDA

In this instance, it takes a superb tackle from the outstanding Garry Ringrose to deny de Allende what looks like being a try, but Munster are in position to score on the next phase anyway.

Hard work from Andrew Conway sees him rewarded with the try.

As highlighted below, Conway is in the right-hand five-metre channel just before de Allende carries.

AC

But watch Conway below as he takes off to the left-hand side just as Murray passes to de Allende. 

Conway

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Conway’s work-rate brings him all the way outside JJ Hanrahan and Shane Daly [who is stacked in behind his out-half - something we'll see again later] to get into position to finish the long sequence of pressure.

With de Allende’s carry having narrowed the Leinster defence even further, luring in Dave Kearney from the outside to assist Ringrose, Munster are numbers-up and finish without fuss.

CJ Stander and Jean Kleyn [white below] have come around the corner to offer a possible one-out carry, while Chris Farrell [red] has shown in the same position as de Allende on the phase before.

Chance

But we can see that Leinster’s widest defender, Jordan Larmour, is directly under the centre of the crossbar, so the obvious best option for Munster is playing out the back to Hanrahan [yellow], who is signalling for the pass.

Although Josh van der Flier gets outside Larmour for Leinster, a crisp pass from Murray to Hanrahan allows the out-half to feed Conway for the try with Keith Earls to spare on the outside.

Try

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Munster have to wait until well into the second half for their next visit to the 22, when they once again try to use a bit of shape to find a finish but knock-on this time.

We can see the shape below, as de Allende is positioned at first receiver and pulls a screen pass behind Billy Holland to Hanrahan, who shifts the ball on to Farrell – who doesn’t seem to be expecting the pass.

KO

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We can see that Daly swings out behind Farrell from that initial position stacked in behind Hanrahan, as indicated in red below.

Stack

Johnny Sexton has Daly covered here but Farrell appears to expect Hanrahan to pass behind him to the fullback.

This play lacks fluidity and probably comes at the wrong time – perhaps this was an occasion for de Allende to use his power – but it shows that Munster are looking to expand their repertoire inside the opposition 22.

A yellow card for Toner in 63rd minute naturally aids Munster’s cause but we see more encouraging play as they finish their second try very soon after the sin-binning.

Munster kick into the corner but their maul is stopped by Leinster and so they shift into their one-out/pick-and-jam carrying game before scoring on 10th phase. The phases just before the try are key thanks to strong clearout work by Rory Scannell – acting as a makeshift forward due to injuries – and Peter O’Mahony.

Clears

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As highlighted in blue below, Scannell clears Robbie Henshaw away after Stander’s carry and takes him well past the ruck.

Deep

There is the risk of a penalty concession here – Henshaw appeals – but Scannell’s work disrupts Leinster’s fold around the ruck and creates space for hooker Rhys Marshall [yellow below] to pick and carry into…

RM

Marshall makes more valuable yards for Munster but is tackled and there’s a jackal turnover threat from Caelan Doris over the ball until O’Mahoy arrives to remove him decisively…

POM

Munster are now ready to strike against the numerically-disadvantaged Leinster and there’s an excellent decoy line from de Allende to help create the space out on the left edge.

As Marshall makes his carry, we can see below that Leinster’s Ross Byrne [white] is calling for more of his team-mates to fold onto that side of the pitch.

RB

That fold doesn’t happen quickly enough, however, as Munster get a quick recycle thanks to O’Mahony’s clearout and now we see the value of de Allende’s deceptive line.

As highlighted in red below, de Allende runs a flat, hard ‘unders’ line angled back in towards the ball just as Murray is passing.

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DDA

That line attracts Byrne [yellow above] in on de Allende, aware as the Leinster out-half is of the Springbok’s carrying dynamism.

Despite having Henshaw inside in a solid position to deal with de Allende if he does get the ball, Byrne commits in on the South African and that, in turn, drags edge defender Jamison Gibson-Park [blue below] inwards.

JJ

Daly has been positioned in behind Hanrahan in that stack once again throughout these phases but he’s a little too deep behind the out-half in this instance to be a viable option. 

Regardless, the knock-on effect of Leinster biting in on de Allende’s line is that Earls is in space on the left touchline and Hanrahan passes to him for a powerful, accurate finish through last man Luke McGrath.

KE

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It takes Munster plenty of effort over the course of a minute and 20 seconds in the Leinster 22 but they will have been pleased with this clinical finish.

Perhaps the best passage of attack from Munster in the game was the build-up to their third try, one that nearly allowed them to draw level with Leinster.

Starting with Daly receiving a Leinster kick inside his own half, hoisting a garryowen and winning it back in a contest with Gibson-Park 30 metres from the Leinster tryline, Munster then stretch the 14-man defence over the course of the next 90 seconds until Conway crosses for his second try.

Ground

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The phase above is vital in Munster making forward progress and, pleasingly for Larkham, it’s simply about basic draw-and-pass skills from some of their backs, as Hanrahan sticks Ringrose and passes to to de Allende, whose footwork gets him outside Henshaw before he hits Farrell. 

The outside centre then draws in makeshift wing Max Deegan to free Earls, who unfortunately ends the sequence by failing to pass to O’Mahony after Larmour sticks on him. Gibson-Park is sweeping in behind but the chance to pass was on.

Nonetheless, Munster continue their attack in 1-3-3-1 shape as they carry infield with the two consecutive pods of three forwards to narrow the Leinster defence before finally striking out to the right.

Conway

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Replacement scrum-half Craig Casey’s zippy passing is prominent in these final few phases but it’s Farrell’s handling that impresses most as he receives the ball and looks like a carrying threat before playing the pivot pass out the back to Hanrahan.

Farrell has to work hard to get into position to make this play – remember that he was involved in the chain of passing down the left-hand side three phases before.

Below, we can see Farrell getting on the move across the pitch from left to right, while also communicating for the first pod of three forwards to get into position to carry…

1

As Marshall [red below] carries in that first three-man pod, we can see that Farrell [white] is still on the move and is now communicating for the second pod of three forwards to carry…

2

As Jeremy Loughman [yellow below] makes that second carry off the left touchline, we can see that Farrell has made it across to the right-hand side of Munster’s attack.

He is now communicating back inside for Hanrahan and Daly – again in that stack [red below] – to work in behind him for the pivot play…

3

Daly hovering in behind Hanrahan is this manner is designed to allow Munster to change the picture for Leinster’s defence at late stages, keeping the fullback slightly hidden rather than allowing defenders to mark up on him at an early stage.

Farrell now puts his hand up to scrum-half Casey to signal he’s ready for the ball…

4

Leinster’s already narrowed-up defence expects something similar to what we saw from de Allende close to the tryline earlier, a running line that Farrell also regularly hits for Munster.

As a result, Farrell is able to briefly sit down Sean Cronin in the defence in front of him…

1

…before the hooker realises it’s a passing play and begins to jockey out beyond Farrell.

But Hanrahan is now on the outside shoulder of Cronin and that means Gibson-Park, one defender out, has to worry about Hanrahan – who eyeballs the scrum-half’s inside shoulder to accentuate that concern…

2

When Hanrahan moves the ball on to Daly, who has finally swung out from behind the Munster out-half, Gibson-Park is now the one struggling to catch-up on the Munster fullback.

That means that Daly is a worry on the inside shoulder of final defender James Lowe, who has to check inside to respect that danger…

3

Gibson-Park does well to recover and tackle Daly low around the legs but the Munter fullback gets the ball away to Conway, who has time and space on the ball as Lowe turns back out in a bid to deal with him.

But Conway steps rapidly back infield and past a tackle attempt Lowe will have been disappointed with before straightening up and surging towards the tryline.

Conway is helped across it by a strong latch from replacement back row Chris Cloete, who binds on to provide extra impetus through Doris’ tackle attempt and also prevent Cronin from attempting to get his hands in at the ball.

While Leinster will have some disappointment with their defensive effort even with only 14 players, Munster will take belief from the manner in which they scored.

Unfortunately for them, Hanrahan’s conversion attempt slipped wide and they weren’t able to level the game but the southern province will hope the promising signs from their attack on Saturday are only the start of being a more dangerous team. 

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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