'We'll come back stronger' - Van Graan vows Munster will bounce back

The southern province fell in a semi-final yet again.

Murray Kinsella reports from the RDS

IT ALL FELT just a little too familiar in the end.

Another semi-final defeat for Munster, another underwhelming attacking performance. 

The southern province’s version of Groundhog Day is something some clubs would happily accept – regular appearances in the last four of Europe and the Pro14 are not to be sniffed at.

Peter O'Mahony after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But Munster have bigger ambitions. The look of frustration on Peter O’Mahony’s face as he sat alongside head coach Johann van Graan following a 24-9 defeat to Leinster in the Guinness Pro14 semi-final is something we have seen too often in recent years.

Van Graan looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders as he now ponders where Munster go next.

He’s looking for three assistant coaches heading into next season – and readily admits that’s far from ideal – but does seem to genuinely believe there is better to come.

“The message is we will come back stronger next year,” said van Graan when asked what he had said to his players after their latest semi-final defeat. “The effort and attitude I can’t fault.

“They gave it everything out there. Unfortunately, we got beaten by a better team on the day.

“We did some really good things but you can’t give them 13 times that they go to a lineout from a penalty and then they put you under pressure and you’ve got to defend in your own half against a quality team like Leinster.”

Indeed, Munster’s poor discipline was deeply damaging as they topped the penalty count 13-7, although both teams suffered a yellow card.

Keith Earls, Jack O'Donoghue, CJ Stander and Chris Farrell dejected at the final whistle Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Leinster were able to take advantage of Niall Scannell’s sin-bin period to score the game-breaking try through Sean Cronin after a delightful attacking passage, but Munster could only draw 3-3 in the time James Lowe spent on the sidelines after his first-half yellow card.

Munster’s attack created just a single linebreak at the RDS overall, whereas Leinster managed 10.

“We could have built more pressure,” said van Graan when asked what Munster could have done better with their 53% share of possession.

“We got a few penalties and you have to use your opportunities. I felt that in the second half there were a few big moments – that chargedown off Rory [Scannell], it just didn’t bounce up.

“Then Joey [Carbery] kicked it into the corner and it rolled out, they get a five-yard lineout and we concede a penalty straight away. I’m going to go back, once again, to discipline.

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“It wasn’t good enough from the whole group on the day and you’ve got to finish those opportunities in a semi-final. It’s soft exits and we’ve got to take that on the chin.”

The dejected van Graan will throw himself into his usual deep analysis of this game and hope he can identify and contract the ideal assistant coaches to push Munster’s game forward next season.

Peter O'Mahony and Alby Mathewson dejected Source: James Crombie/INPHO

And the Munster head coach will hope his players can learn from the latest in a long string of semi-finals lessons.

“We must learn as a group,” said van Graan. “I said it at the beginning – if we lose, it starts with the coach and we’ve got to be better. I can’t fault the effort and the attitude of the players but we’ve got to be able to execute under pressure as a group.

“It was a penalty literally on the stroke of half time which gave them the momentum, similar to our previous semi-final [against Saracens in the Champions Cup], and then the yellow card cost us 10 points.

“I thought we managed the first nine minutes of the yellow card pretty well and then literally right at the end, they got that try. We were 10 points down, had to play a bit more and kept the ball for multiple phases but, again, the defence of Leinster are very good.”

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