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Analysis: Leinster take their chance with superb set-piece score to break Munster

Ross Byrne had an impressive involvement as some of Leinster’s bench players made a late impact.

THE BEST TEAMS find a way to win even when everything hasn’t gone their way and Leinster epitomised that with their excellent 69th-minute try against Munster last night.

Once again, Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster’s side delivered the most incisive piece of attacking play in this fixture as Jordan Larmour finished a clinical two-phase burst of quality from the reigning Guinness Pro14 champions.

The score starts on the left-hand side just outside Munster’s 22, where Leinster opt for a full seven-man lineout.

LO

The Leinster lineout has had intermittent issues in recent months but it was strong last night as they won all 12 of their own throws and managed to disrupt Munster’s set-piece, with the outstanding James Ryan to the fore as he stole two. 

In this instance, there is some clever movement from the Leinster forwards to give Ryan space at the tail.

Initially, Ross Molony sets up at the rear of the lineout for Leinster, with Munster’s Tadhg Beirne marking up on him.

1

But watch below as Molony makes a dummy movement forward, drawing Beirne away from the tail just as Ryan and Jack Conan [20] shift backwards.

Having held his starting position, Andrew Porter lifts Ryan from the back as Conan lifts from the front.

Ryan

It’s simple, clever movement from Leinster to create space.

But is the throw from Ronan Kelleher straight?

Repeated viewings suggest that it was slightly crooked as Ryan catches out over the left-hand side of his head.

Throw

However, while we can see Conor Murray appealing above, the match officials are content to play on and Leinster appear to get some fortune with the call. 

They make it count over the next 15 seconds.

Josh van der Flier accepts the transfer from Ryan as he lands to ground, with the sub flanker spinning out of the dummy maul set-up to find scrum-half Luke McGrath [white below] coming from the five-metre line to shift the ball on to the direct-running Robbie Henshaw [red].

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Henshaw targets the space in between Munster out-half Ben Healy and inside centre Damian de Allende, aiming to drag both of those defenders into the tackle, while McGrath’s dart before passing ties in Niall Scannell.

RH

Often, we would see another back resourcing the breakdown here but instead that job is covered by Caelan Doris and Ed Byrne, who have come all the way from the front of the lineout [white below] to support Henshaw. 

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Doris’ run actually makes him a possible ball-carrier just outside McGrath, as we can see below, and that poses a brief threat to Munster’s Healy before the ball is skipped past Doris – whose hands are up for a possible pass – to Henshaw.

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With Healy and de Allende sucked into the tackle, Doris and Byrne can hit the breakdown for a lighting-quick Leinster recycle.

There is more crucial work around the corner from a pair of the Leinster forwards – Molony and van der Flier, both of whom made an impact off the bench.

Molony [white below] works around after his initial dummy movement in the lineout and then another dummy movement to join the maul, while van der Flier [red] does the same after his transfer to McGrath.

5

Molony, van der Flier, and out-half Ross Byrne [yellow above] align vertically here in a ‘stack’ that makes it difficult for Munster’s defenders to get an early read of their intentions.

Molony [white below] plays an important role as he runs a hard decoy line short off McGrath as the scrum-half [blue] picks the ball and scoots to his right.

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The combined effect here is that Munster’s defenders closest to the breakdown have to respect the threat of McGrath sniping and Molony running a hard line, making it much harder for them to drift out to their left.

It also means they can’t bring greater linespeed up onto van der Flier [red below] as he bounces out the back of Molony, holding his depth nicely to give himself time on the ball.

7

The shot below shows Leinster’s set-up and how Molony’s run manages to check Fineen Wycherley in particular, just as McGrath instead passes out the back to van der Flier.

1

As van der Flier gets on the ball, there is a second crucial decoy line – this time from Garry Ringrose.

The Leinster outside centre [white below] times his run perfectly to pose a genuine threat to opposite number Chris Farrell’s inside shoulder as out-half Byrne [yellow] now bounces out the back of Ringrose.

7

Having been sent on as an emergency replacement wing after Leinster opted for a 6/2 bench split, Jamison Gibson-Park [pink] is trailing Byrne on the inside – Doris and Ed Byrne’s effort having ensured he didn’t need to hit the breakdown on Henshaw’s carry.

Ringrose’s run is really effective in threatening Farrell’s inside shoulder, causing Farrell to briefly sit down on his heels incase van der Flier takes that front-door option.

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As we can see below, that delays Farrell from readjusting onto Byrne when van der Flier instead passes out the back.

CF

With Munster left wing Shane Daly shifting out to cover Leinster fullback Hugo Keenan and Munster fullback Mike Haley closing up onto Leinster wing Jordan Larmour, Ringrose’s run buys Byrne an extra split second on the ball before Farrell can readjust and close him down.

The Leinster out-half, another to make a major impact off the bench, uses that additional time to great effect as he delivers an excellent attacking kick. 

Byrne

The weight on the kick is superb from Byrne after he identifies the space left in behind as Haley closes up on Larmour.

If Byrne puts too much on his kick here, it’s possible that Keith Earls – covering across from the right hand side of the backfield -  will be able to get to it, or perhaps that the ball will roll on into touch.

Instead, Byrne calmly calibrates his grubber to bounce up in behind Daly and Haley. 

Note how Byrne drops the ball onto his foot here. He releases the ball at an angle, tilting it slightly back towards himself.

D

Completely absorbed in his kick, rather than focused on the pressure Farrell is attempting to apply, Byrne allows the ball to drop very close to the ground and then strikes it with the inside of his foot, rather than the top of it.

DD

That gives him plenty of control over the power of the kick and the aim is to get the ball to bounce early – rather than flying deep in behind Munster. The angle of the ball drop ensures the bounce will favour Keenan or Larmour’s chances of regathering it in behind Munster.

It’s not 100% clear if the ball glances slightly off Daly’s right foot here as he tries to react, but the early bounce that Byrne builds into his kick is even more important in that light – taking the ball just up and over Daly’s foot.

RB

Keenan does brilliantly to gather the ball as it bounces up – exactly what Byrne was aiming for – and almost immediately offload to Larmour before Haley can get his hands in and onto the ball.

finish

Gibson-Park has worked hard chasing up from the inside of Byrne and there is a possible pass option for Larmour but, with Earls overchasing in his desperate attempt to rescue the situation for Munster, Larmour instead opts to step back inside to finish.

Gibson-Park adds a nuisance factor in blocking Wycherley off from the admittedly unlikely possibility of getting back to tackle Larmour.

Having delivered the key attacking moment of the game, Byrne then steadies himself to nail an impressive conversion from close to the right touchline to extend the Leinster lead to 13-10, one they hold onto for the final 10 minutes of the game.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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