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“I thought the desire and the spirit shown by the players is pleasing”.

PICTURE: 

Those were the words of Leinster head coach Leo Cullen in the aftermath of his side’s 27-16 loss to Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday night.
Leinster’s recent run of form over their southern rivals came to an end at Thomond Park, as costly indiscipline proved to be the major difference between the two sides.
In the first half, Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong were sent to the bin for high tackles while James Lowe received a straight red card for clumsily colliding with Andrew Conway in the air who suffered a heavy fall.

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Munster were able to eke out the win due to their numerical advantage but although Cullen struggled to find the positives from suffering a defeat with not even a losing bonus point to their name, he did single out how his side kept on fighting to their bitter end and this was best exemplified by their defensive effort throughout the game.
Leinster only conceded two tries – one from a set piece lineout and the other from a breakaway intercept – their work rate on the other side of the ball allowed them to stay in the game for as long as they did until Keith Earls’ intervention with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Here we take a look at Leinster’s defensive efforts at key moments throughout the game.
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Cian Healy was yellow-carded after 17 minutes when his arm collided with Conor Murray’s head when he attempted to complete a tackle. During the first seven minutes in which Healy was off the pitch, Leinster dominated possession and territory as they registered their first points of the game through a Johnny Sexton penalty.
Munster, knowing the importance of scoring when they have a man advantage, looked to do so when Mike Haley brought play deep within the Leinster half after superbly collecting his own garryowen.
https://streamable.com/zlztc
Source: TG4

Murray was then able to bring play up to the Leinster 22 with a strong carry up the blindside. Now Munster were in an ideal situation – they had Leinster backtracking, they were generating quick ball and they had a numerical advantage.
However, Leinster deployed quick line speed in this passage of play and throughout the game to shut down the home side from playing the ball wide to take advantage of the extra space. As we see in this instance, quick line speed on both sides of the ruck results in Carbery getting tackled and losing a few metres of territory in the process.

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From the above image, we see Murray send the ball to Carbery (orange circle) as Munster look to set up the attack. Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan (white arrow), Johnny Sexton (red arrow) and Noel Reid (blue arrow) all advance quickly which spooks Carbery to check back on his inside (orange curve) and run back towards the original ruck.

Scott Fardy (white circle) who is clearly keeping a close eye on the situation, quickly sees what’s happening and sprints up to meet a meandering Carbery to make a tackle which results in Munster losing significant ground.
Up until this point, Munster were making continuous gains but Leinster’s line speed in this instance stopped their momentum. The home side, two phases later, coughed up possession when CJ Stander knocked on when receiving an inside pass from Murray.
https://streamable.com/ct8ec
Source: TG4

Three minutes after Healy returns from the bin, Leinster are down to 14 again when Furlong receives yellow for making contact with Chris Cloete’s head when attempting to clear out a ruck.
The resulting penalty is kicked into the Leinster 22 and Munster are presented with another promising attacking opportunity.
Niall Scannell peels off the back of the lineout maul and the next two phases show Leinster’s impressive line speed and their strength in contact which ultimately contributes to another turnover.
Murray fires the ball to Stander (orange circle) who is hoping to make a ‘positive’ carry, one which generates forward momentum, but James Ryan (white arrow) and Fardy (red arrow) shoot out of the line to meet him and stop the powerful number eight in his tracks.

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Slow ball ensues for Munster and on the next phase, they send the ball to John Ryan. The tighthead makes ground into the 22 as Jean Kleyn and Arno Botha latch onto him to provide some South African force.
However, what looks to be a promising gain by Munster is actually in Leinster’s favour. Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier hold up Ryan and this allows Fardy to hover and prepare for a turnover attempt once the tackle is completed.
Fardy slows Munster’s ball down and his intervention sees the ball fly out of the ruck which has Murray scrambling. The Munster scrum-half panics and goes down the blindside where a rushed offload eventually goes into touch.
https://streamable.com/k7wkt
Source: TG4

In the second half, and down to 14 men due to Lowe’s red card, Leinster get back into the game through a maul try from James Tracy. Approaching the midway point of the second half, there is only six points between the teams and Munster have another promising position to attack from.
A lineout maul on Leinster’s 22 is stopped dead so the ball is shipped to Rory Scannell who fights like a dog on the ground to make inroads into the opposition 22.
The ball is then shipped to Dave Kilcoyne and it’s from here we see that Leinster are in a vulnerable position.

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Slow ball ensues for Munster and on the next phase, they send the ball to John Ryan. The tighthead makes ground into the 22 as Jean Kleyn and Arno Botha latch onto him to provide some South African force.
However, what looks to be a promising gain by Munster is actually in Leinster’s favour. Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier hold up Ryan and this allows Fardy to hover and prepare for a turnover attempt once the tackle is completed.
Fardy slows Munster’s ball down and his intervention sees the ball fly out of the ruck which has Murray scrambling. The Munster scrum-half panics and goes down the blindside where a rushed offload eventually goes into touch.
https://streamable.com/k7wkt
Source: TG4

In the second half, and down to 14 men due to Lowe’s red card, Leinster get back into the game through a maul try from James Tracy. Approaching the midway point of the second half, there is only six points between the teams and Munster have another promising position to attack from.
A lineout maul on Leinster’s 22 is stopped dead so the ball is shipped to Rory Scannell who fights like a dog on the ground to make inroads into the opposition 22.
The ball is then shipped to Dave Kilcoyne and it’s from here we see that Leinster are in a vulnerable position.
 

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