Disappointment hung heavy over the Munster dressing-room in the aftermath of the defeat, players trying desperately to get to grips with another numbing reverse.
Disappointment hung heavy over the Munster dressing-room in the aftermath of the defeat, players trying desperately to get to grips with another numbing reverse. Those canvassed gave credit to the victors, but losing a final is one thing, losing to arch rivals Leinster is another.
And the feeling that lingers is that this was a game that Munster left behind them. They looked to be in as much control, as any side can be against a team of Leinster’s quality, when Ronan O’Gara put them 15-6 up early in the second half. Then, after Nathan Spooner had pulled one back, they came hunting for a third try in a move that ended in a penalty being reversed and Leinster clearing their stretched lines. It was the turning point according to Munster number 8 Anthony Foley,
“That penalty was a massive turnaround and it seemed to lift them. Shortly after that we lost Rob (Henderson) and Claw to make matters worse. But to give Leinster their due they kept at us all day, they never took their foot off it and never dropped their heads. Keith Gleeson had a super game and we found it very hard to break down their defence.”
Coach Declan Kidney accepted that “Leinster fully merited their win”. Asked about what was described as a surprise backline selection, Kidney explained, “Because of injury, players were in and out of the squad at different stages. For example, Jason Holland had a shoulder injury and was only cleared to play yesterday. I felt that Rob Henderson and John O’Neill would give us the best areas to attack them. Now that didn’t work out in the second half but that was down to Leinster hanging onto the ball rather than us turning it over.” And when Kidney was questioned about the decision to omit Jeremy Staunton from his 22, leaving no cover for Dominic Crotty, the Munster coach said, ” Mike (Mullins) has been subbing for Ireland and covering that position, so saying there was no cover for Dominic doesn’t hold quite true.”
As to the future and in particular the Heineken Cup, Foley was confident this defeat would not impact on the side, ” Absolutely not. The Heineken Cup is a different competition. We have to take whatever positives we can out of today’s game and get ourselves going forward again. We have to take it on the chin, grow up and learn from it. We have an Interpro game coming up. That’s another competition and one we’ll try to win. We have a few weeks to get right for the Heineken Cup and we will get right for that. You can’t carry baggage in this or you end up going backwards and we don’t want to go backwards.”
O’Gara also made reference to the impact of Henderson retiring with a groin strain. ” The loss of Rob was hugely influential. People can play off him, he’s the type of player that can make things happen. They (Leinster) knew Jason and myself well so there wasn’t as much space.
The game itself was very frustrating really. For 60 minutes everything was going to plan. We should have been out of sight. Maybe we lacked the killer punch. Leinster showed their quality and fair play to them. We would have settled for them getting one try because with just four points in it I would have been confident of us getting one back but when they scored the second it was a question of them running down the clock, the game was over.”