Munster were kicking themselves after failing again to topple PRO!4 champions Leinster despite racking up an early 10-point lead in their Irish PRO14 derby at Thomond Park on Saturday night. And coach Johann van Graan was brutally honest when he said the defeat to the defending champions hurt, but that his side was closing the gap on the Dublin team with every game.
The last game in Dublin saw Leinster win 13-3 and while Munster dominated most of the match, a late score by Jordan L’amour was the difference between the two sides in the 13-10 victory.
“It hurts incredibly,” said van Graan afterwards.
“It not only hurts me, it hurts everybody inside because the one thing you can never doubt with this club is the work they put in, the effort they put in, and unfortunately we feel the 50/50s didn’t go our way.
“That is rugby and that is life. We have got to keep going and the positive part of tonight is that it was a league game.
“Losing to Leinster is never good enough for Munster.
“We hope in the next one, whether that is in a final or the normal league game, or a European quarter-final – who knows what is next – we believe that hopefully we can put in a performance that, at that moment, goes our way.”
Leinster still loom large for every team in PRO14, and have now beaten Munster and Ulster after their stumble against Connacht a few weeks back, making them odds-on favourites to retain their title.
But for Munster the search continues, as Van Graan rightly adds that they are still a mountain for Munster – and every other side in the championship to overcome.
“Look, I’m not going to sugar coat it,” he said.
“We obviously haven’t beaten them consistently. I think you’ve got to look at the bigger picture as well, there’s no team in Europe has beaten them consistently.
“If you look at their last 12 games we are the only side that they don’t score bonus-point wins against, it’s literally one-score games so you know, they are currently better than us but it’s literally a moment away.
“So if they had beaten us by four tries to one tonight I would have said yes, that might have been a psychological edge.
“But the fact we lost the game by three points and we didn’t use our opportunities, and it wasn’t wishy-washy opportunities – we should have kicked the ball over the posts or that ball bounces their way, so by no means do I think it’s a psychological thing.”
“We know and they know that its two top teams and currently they get the 50-50 wins and congratulations to them.”
In Galway, Ospreys star Rhys Webb scored twice as the Welsh side stunned Connacht with a come-from-behind 26-20 victory on Sunday.
Connacht at one point led by 12 points against 14 Ospreys, but the Welsh side found the resolve deep inside them to respond early in the second half and never looked back as they took a victory that will give them loads of confidence.
Without their coach Richard Cockerill and fullback Blair Kinghorn, Edinburgh fought to a satisfying 26-10 victory over Italian side Zebre.
Both were forced to stay in Scotland after awaiting COVID-tests that turned out to be negative, but without them their side did enough to return home with the points in the bag.
Flyhalf Jaco van der Walt, who penned a new deal last week with the club, contributed 16 points in the victory.
Cardiff Blues Interim Director of Rugby Dai Young celebrated his return to the club with a nail-biting 13-10 win over Scarlets on Friday.
Matthew Morgan’s try, coupled with Jarrod Evans’ boot was enough to see the Welsh side home in their tightly contested derby, completing the double after their win in Cardiff a fortnight ago.