Hawkeye Sidekick

Signs of optimism for Munster Rugby as they beat Leinster Rugby in Rainbow Cup opener

The pandemic unfortunately has put pay to the South African involvement in the Rainbow Cup but the action this past weekend has been top drawer.

Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the 3-27 win for Munster Rugby over a Leinster Rugby side at the RDS who perhaps had one eye at the La Rochelle Heineken Champions Cup last four fixture next weekend.

Munster Rugby with a point to prove

The opening period exchanges told everything about Munster Rugby’s intentions. The Guinness Pro14 final memories where Leinster Rugby bullied Munster Rugby from minute one still fresh in the memory.

Munster Rugby tore into Leinster Rugby immediately. The opening try emphasized as much. O’Mahony ripping the ball in midfield, quick ruck ball to de Allende who exposed the Andrew Porter mismatch before putting Jordan Larmour in a tailspin before passing to Conor Murray (super supporting line) to score.

Munster Rugby’s physicality was a welcome sight. The pack warmed to the task and the sight of the pack going forwards stood out as Leinster Rugby pack were getting turned and trying to slow ball by not rolling away. Daly made a super tackle in front of the Munster Rugby bench, cue the roars of approval.

Breakdown officiating chaos

Chris Busby’s officiating around the breakdown in that opening half left plenty to be desired. Players not rolling away left completely unpunished so players felt compelled to take the law into their own hands.

The Stephen Archer incident where James Ryan clearly on the wrong side, not moving away and the boot went in. Yellow card but it could have been red with another officiating crew.

Jack O’Donoghue’s clear out raises questions for rugby union in general on whether a defending team can actually clear out at ruck time to win possession back. It is becoming a part of the play which will cease to exist given the high risk of sanction now.

Leinster Rugby management will have learned plenty

Post game, the reaction was that this was not a full strength Leinster Rugby side. I get that but there were still marquee names on the team sheet.

Porter, Ryan, Baird, Ringrose, Lowe, Kearney, Fardy and Larmour. Any side with this level of talent is a good side. Add in young guns eager to impress and you have the ingredients for a superbly motivated side.

The young guns will have learned plenty from the outing. Sheehan looks an exciting prospect, very dynamic in ball carries but was exposed on set piece at times particularly scrum time (early engagement). The player will learn plenty from last night.

Hugh O’Sullivan is a tidy scrum-half, good passing range and looked for openings throughout despite under pressure from the Munster Rugby back row during his cameo. David Hawkshaw will have better day off the tee but the potential was there in abundance.

The La Rochelle game next weekend is key and the big names missing from the side will be back. Healy, Furlong, Kelleher, van der Flier, Conan, Sexton / Byrne, Henshaw and Keenan.

This loss will focus minds within the Leinster Rugby camp this week, training will go up a few notches in intensity. I expect the side to come out all guns blazing next weekend.

Cullen and Lancaster know only too well that if you lose the collision battle, then you are in trouble and that is what happened last night.

Lessons for young players to learn, only way of learning this is in a high intensity situation such as an inter-pro. A worthwhile exercise. A shame that we did not see the likes of Doris or Frawley last night, two massive talents.

Munster Rugby expansive game exciting to see

The pleasing aspect to this performance was that Munster Rugby looked to create width when given the opportunity. The opening try was evidence of this.

Joey Carbery looked to snip from the ten channel and the supporting lines were impressive at times. Carbery and O’Donoghue kicks behind gained territory and put Leinster Rugby on the backfoot.

The second Conor Murray try was well worked, lovely hands from Gavin Coombes with an offlload to de Allende who committed Leinster Rugby players to the ruck. Murray opportunistically touched down to blow the game wide open.

The Munster Rugby pack platform was solid all night and the penalty try was the result of a lovely maul. Leinster Rugby infringing. Busby lost patience and pen try rewarded.

Munster Rugby showed last night that they are capable of executing a high tempo expansive game when required. The fast track conditions during this tournament dictate that this will be game plan. Exciting times!

Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell provided massive go forward ball throughout. Keith Earls when given ball was dangerous creating breaks along with Shane Daly whose defensive performance was really good. A good night’s work.

The acid test for this side may come when we get to the business end of this Rainbow Cup. Will the side show up and execute when the pressure is applied? Time will tell but for last night, the losing streak to Leinster Rugby is stopped.