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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019
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Munster's halfback woes, Ringrose, and more Thomond Park talking points

The 20-year-old Leinster centre set up the eastern province’s first try.

MUNSTER WERE BEATEN 24-7 by Leinster at Thomond Park. 

Read our full match report here.

Internationals turn up for Leinster

It’s been a frustrating couple of months for Leinster supporters, watching on as high-class players deliver poor performances. The deepest frustration has been that we all know Leinster are capable of so much more than they showed in the Bath, Wasps and Toulon defeats.

Sean O'Brien receives the man of the match award from Colin Kenny O'Brien was man of the match in Limerick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leo Cullen has been waiting for his big leaders to step up, and that finally happened at Thomond Park this evening. Sean O’Brien returned from injury superbly, while Jamie Heaslip was excellent alongside him in the back row.

With Johnny Sexton given the weekend off, Ian Madigan was brilliant at out-half, while South African international Zane Kirchner gave his best display in recent memory at fullback.

In the front row, Sean Cronin was more aggressive than he has been in some time, while Devin Toner was solid in the engine room. When Leinster’s undoubtedly excellent players turn up in strong form, they are a hugely dangerous, efficient team.

Cullen will hope the standard set this evening continues all the way to a Pro12 final victory in 2016.

Munster wasteful

Munster dominated the possession stakes – their share was greater than 60% – but they were once again totally wasteful in their use of the ball. Again, the build-up play was sharp at times but they coughed the ball up in the opposition 22.

Francis Saili with Sean Cronin and Sean O'Brien Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It’s becoming a major issue for Munster, and although they did burst over for a try through Robin Copeland, they dropped passes and failed to hit rucks more often. Even the maul, previously so dangerous, is becoming impotent for Munster.

Their protestations that they are close to ripping a team apart are likely to continue, and can possibly be justified in the thinking behind their attack, but the Munster players are failing to deliver on the ideas.

Munster’s halfback problems

With Ian Keatley removed from the firing line after his poor recent form and Conor Murray missing out due to a hip injury, Tomás O’Leary and Tyler Bleyendaal were called on to provide direction for Munster in the halfback positions.

Tyler Bleyendaal Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Unfortunately, their performances provided precisely the opposite. O’Leary’s passing was slow and inaccurate, while his decision-making was also ponderous, often stymieing promising attack from Munster.

Bleyendaal, meanwhile, didn’t appear to be fully match fit. He appeared to be heavily reluctant to kick the ball or carry into contact, instead preferring to meander laterally before hitting his forwards or sending the ball wide.

The Kiwi is a hugely talented player and deserves time, of course, but Ian Madigan opposite him was altogether more composed. The Leinster man strutted around Thomond Park, fixing defenders, passing well, and kicking superbly from both hand and tee.

At scrum-half, Eoin Reddan provided crisp, accurate service to ensure that Leinster were totally dominant in the halfback battle.

Garry Ringrose

The youngest player on the pitch, but easily one of the most composed and impressive. 20-year-old Garry Ringrose has been battling hard for a start in Leinster’s 13 shirt in a game of this importance and he delivered superbly when finally given the chance.

Garry Ringrose on the attack Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

His calm on the ball was startling, although that sense of ease and comfort did not affect the former Blackrock College man’s impact. His burst of pace outside Dave Foley, the swerve back inside Jack O’Donoghue and the coolness to find Isa Nacewa with a simple pass for Leinster’s first try was reminiscent of Ireland’s greatest centre ever.

There was one sharp, accurate offload from Ringrose, as well as several further intelligent touches. Defensively, the youngster did his job without any fuss. A special player.

Earls concern

It was truly worrying to see Keith Earls treated for some minutes in the first-half after he sustained a blow to the head. The injury occurred as the Limerick man made a dashing half break and offloaded to Francis Saili, Luke Fitzgerald doing just enough to haul Earls down.

Keith Earls goes off injured Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The game was halted and a hush fell on Thomond Park, as Munster’s medical team carefully treated Earls. Fitzgerald came across to check on his friend’s health, a nice touch from a player who knows all about injury problems.

The hope is that this is not another damaging concussion for Earls, who has suffered heavily in that department in recent times. The whole Irish rugby community will have their fingers crossed for the Munster wing.

Cian Healy limping off near the end provides another injury worry for Joe Schmidt.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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