Leinster threw away an 11-point half-time lead to lose 23-24 to Munster at Thomond Park on Saturday night. The visitors had looked the far more dangerous team in the first half, with Shane Horgan scoring the only try of the match, and their defence held firm in the second to prevent Munster crossing the whitewash. But the hosts came out firing in the second half and Leinster finally succumbed to the pressure.
Coach Joe Schmidt said: “We just couldn’t get into the second half. At half-time we said there would be a number of things that would go against us, and we had great resilience to stay in the game as long as we did. But we didn’t have the field possession or the ball in the second half to put in the same performance as we had in the first, and you can’t afford to play Munster in your own half.”
Schmidt said the pressure of the game was certainly a factor in their defeat, and the penalty count went against his side in the second half. “It’s a very pressured environment here and the officials feel that too. Sometimes what you deserve and what you get are not necessarily the same thing. I was struggling to hear my staff on the sideline.”
Leinster now lie in fourth place in the Magners League table, and although they will still hope to make the play-offs, Schmidt admitted that a home semi-final would now be a tough ask. Cardiff are now just four points behind Leinster and will be hoping to knock them out of the top four.
“This result certainly keeps Cardiff alive,” said Schmidt. “But the good news is we’re in control of our own fate. We’re going to do our best to get into the top four and we’ve got three games left to do so, although finishing in the top two now will be a real struggle.”
Leinster have only lost one game since December, to Cardiff in February, but they face the stern test of Leicester next weekend as they host the Heineken Cup final at the Aviva Stadium, and the pressure of today’s game will have gone some way to preparing them for the high pressured environment of the knockout stages of the European competition.