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'Not good enough but we have to learn from it': JVG offers no excuses for defeat

The Munster head coach says his side need to learn from the mistakes they made against Leinster.

Munster's winning run came to an end at the hands of Leinster.
Munster's winning run came to an end at the hands of Leinster.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

ON ONE OF the walls of the Thomond Park press conference room is a newspaper headline from Munster’s 30-6 victory over Leinster in the Heineken Cup semi-final back in 2006.

‘Munster reach final on a day to remember’, it reads after the southern province completely dominated their rivals to progress through to the final in Cardiff. The rest, as we now know, was history.

Whatever way you look at it, this inter-pro derby won’t be remembered for a long time by those around these parts but Johann van Graan has stressed the importance of his side learning their lessons from a 34-24 defeat at the hands of their rivals.

The Munster head coach, who suffered his first loss in charge, was left to lament a slow start from his side as Leinster stormed into a three-try lead and despite a second half rally, the hosts were unable to pull off a comeback.

“Very disappointed, disappointed about the first half specifically,” the South African said.

“We didn’t start well and happy about the second half but unfortunately rugby is an 80 minute game. Over 80 minutes we just weren’t good enough tonight.

“From the first kick off, they poached the ball and we’re 3-0 down. Some very good lessons that we need to learn from.”

Munster, fully stocked and loaded having made just four changes from the win over Leicester at Welford Road, were out-played and out-fought during the first half as a fresh and vibrant Leinster outfit raided the southern province’s fortress.

The home side were horribly inaccurate, defensively vulnerable and largely bullied at the breakdown as Leo Cullen’s men punished them through scores from Dan Leavy, a penalty try and Robbie Henshaw. Ross Byrne also kicked 12 points.

There was more than an element of a European hangover about it from Munster.

“No excuses,” van Graan continued. “We had a big training week. Each team has to mange this Christmas period and we went for the same team [as Leicester]. We had two guys pulling out late [Keith Earls and Rhys Marshall] but we knew sometime early in the week.”

Peter O'Mahony dejected after the game Peter O'Mahony dejected at full-time. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A reality check of sorts, then?

“I guess you could call it. We take it game by game. two quality teams up against each other and they were better tonight. They’re a quality side and some quality individuals all across the park. The positive is how we responded at half-time, we adjusted our game plan.”

Munster could only get better after half-time. Trailing 27-5, it couldn’t get any worse.

The southern province, van Graan said, adopted a more direct approach in the second half.

“We had to adjust and I thought we did pretty well. We committed more numbers to the  breakdown, we kicked long and got some lineout opportunities in territory, and we won collisions and got momentum.

“I’m very happy with the bonus point for four tries but very disappointed with the result. It’s frustrating when you go out all guns blazing and receive the kick off and concede the penalty and you’re three points down.

“Not good enough but like I said we have to learn from it.”

The positive for Munster is that they don’t have to wait long to put it right as a trip to Belfast on New Year’s Day awaits.

“We’ve got quite few bumps and bruises,” the head coach added. “After a loss there always seems to be a bit more pain but nothing serious at this stage.

“There will be quite a number of changes [for Ulster]. It’s a big block of games.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Ryan Bailey

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