Not the best night of my life. I’ll grant you that much without argument.
18-0 is fairly comprehensive and Munster did indeed unequivocally dominate this game but the final score doesn’t reflect how tight the game really was. 3-0 at half-time, the teams were a score apart until about the 70th minute. Free-flowing it was not.
I’ve heard plenty of (mostly unwelcome) opinions on Leinster’s faults but I point the finger of blame at the backrow/breakdown effort. I saw Munster scrumhalf Tomas O’Leary presented a neatly and quickly laid egg at the ruck many times whereas Leinster No. 9 Chris Whitaker was often excavating. That difference at the tackle area tends to create the space out wide that we saw eventually exploited for the first try.
For Munster, O’Gara and new kid on the block Keith Earls went well and doubtless some of the loose forwards must have had good games in the tight although that’s hard to detect from the stands without the benefit of close-ups and replays.
For Leinster, the outhalf/kicker axis was poor, Contepomi missed one very easy chance and two significantly harder ones early in the game which may well have changed the psychological balance of the game had they gone over. Meanwhile Sexton v O’Gara showed the younger man how much he has to work on, tactical kicking and distribution alike.
Last year Munster lost both games to Leinster in the Magner’s League but also claimed their second European crown. Leinster have a Magner’s League title. That’s very nice but the Heineken Cup is the main event. This loss contained some harsh lessons but the real meat of the season has yet to come and I await the trip to Edinburgh on the 11th with an eager sort of nervous anticipation.