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Van Graan dismisses O'Connor's claim that Munster were 'cynical' at the breakdown

The English side slipped to another heavy defeat at Thomond Park as their head coach lamented ‘inaccuracy.’

Matt O'Connor speaking post-match at Thomond Park.
Matt O'Connor speaking post-match at Thomond Park.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

THE RETURN LEG at Welford Road next week will be a tastier affair, for Matt O’Connor, the Leicester head coach, has already stoked the fire with claims of ‘cynical’ Munster play during the Champions Cup clash between the sides on Saturday evening.

Leicester were aggrieved with how they were treated at the breakdown by referee Jerome Garces and O’Connor said Munster were ‘very, very diligent and cynical in killing the ball’ throughout the Pool 4 fixture at Thomond Park, particularly when they had pulled clear through first-half tries from Rhys Marshall and Simon Zebo.

Johann van Graan, the Munster coach, who enjoyed a memorable Champions Cup coaching debut as his side secured a bonus-point victory, has dismissed the claim, saying that both sides had ‘pushed the boundaries’.

O’Connor lamented his side’s inaccuracy as the Tigers slipped to another heavy defeat in Limerick, a result which sees them slip down to third in Pool 4 following Castres’ defeat of Racing 92.

“We were inaccurate,” he said. ”You can’t come here and be inaccurate. I thought we were poor and we didn’t look after the ball well enough. I think we turned over the ball 20 times.

“They took their chances in the first half, they were very clinical and accurate and from there they were very, very diligent and cynical in killing the ball whenever we had opportunities. It made it hard for us to score.”

When asked if the referee could not help his side in that respect, O’Connor replied: “No, you’ve got to be better, you’ve got to be better. It’s always the same here, you’ve got to make sure you’re accurate. They’re ferocious at the ball and they’re very, very committed. You’ve got to be more accurate.”

The comments were put to van Graan when he took his seat in the Thomond Park press conference room for the first time.

He said: “I think there’s 30 players on the pitch and the team that adapts best to the referee, that’s the team that gets the advantage.

[image alt="A scuffle breaks out between the two sides" src="http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2017/12/a-scuffle-breaks-out-between-the-two-sides-630x417.jpg" width="630" height="417" title="" class="aligncenter" /end]

“I thought both teams pushed the boundaries quite well even though there were some incidents and 50-50 decisions that could have gone either way. I thought the referee handled the game very well.”

The game wasn’t without it’s boiling points, most notably when Tom Youngs, the Leicester captain, went unpunished for an apparent neckroll on Chris Cloete and then a shoulder to CJ Stander’s head.

“You are not friends, no?” Garces asked Conor Murray and Dan Cole when the pair got a little hot and bothered. His cards stayed in the pocket throughout, however.

Indiscipline and inaccuracy cost Leicester as they followed up last year’s 38-0 defeat here without another humiliation of sorts. They were ragged and rudderless and now face a stiff task to advance from this pool.

“We came back into it a bit in the second half but we didn’t get any continuity,” O’Connor continued. “I thought their line speed was very good in defence and we played behind ourselves a bit chasing the game. That’s always going to be hard.

“It’s going to be tough [to get through], we’re going to have to make sure we’re very, very good next week and we don’t give Munster anything. Without stating the obvious, next week is really important.”

They’ll be without fullback Telusa Veainu after he broke his jaw in the accidental head collision which also prematurely ended Andrew Conway’s evening.

O’Connor said the Munster winger had ‘the duty of care’ as he contested Conor Murray’s box-kick.

“You saw it, I saw it,” the former Leinster coach said.

Van Graan’s interpretation: “It was a kick in the air and it was a collision between two players and both guys got injured. I hope they both will be fine.”

Conway was sitting up and talking in the dressing room afterwards and Munster will wait to see how he is when the squad reconvene on Monday.

It’s only half-time.

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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