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Leo Cullen laments lack of Leinster cohesion after Munster defeat

Leinster boss already thinking about next week’s Champions Cup final

Craig Casey of Munster celebrates after his side's victory© SPORTSFILE

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leo Cullen lamented his side’s lack of cohesion in the aftermath of Leinster’s dramatic URC semi-final defeat to Munster at the Aviva Stadium.

Jack Crowley’s late drop-goal ended Cullen much-changed side’s dreams of a double and the coach admitted that he had gambled by leaving a string of internationals in the stands ahead of next week’s Heineken Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.

Joe McCarthy’s second-half try edged them into a winning position, but Munster battled back bravely with an incredible sequence of play to move from one end of the field to another and deliver the winning kick that sends them to Cape Town where they’ll face the Stormers in two weeks.

Leinster unusually found themselves on the wrong side of the penalty count, with Cork referee Frank Murphy awarding 11 penalties to Munster against the home side’s five.

And Cullen said that was down to his side’s lack of familiarity.

"What was the penalty count? 11-5? Yeah, we’ll have to have a look back. The guys scrambled well. The challenge with some of the selection is around some of the cohesion,” he said.

"We knew we were taking a bit of a risk with that piece.

“We talked about the challenge of trying to fight on two fronts and unfortunately we have come unstuck with it today.

“We had guys coming back in at this stage of the year as well and that’s the challenge for us. It didn’t quite go our way.

"We were very close to it, very close to closing out the game. It’s disappointing we weren’t quite able to do that but again you have to give credit to Munster.

“There’s two teams fighting right to the very end, they nail their opportunity at the death and we don’t get another chance.

"We were very, very close to winning a semi-final. Unfortunately not today.

"Again, back to that cohesion part. They had a more settled group there today and that’s a call that we made and we have to accept the consequences of that now.

"Munster look strong but we fight our way back in and repel and repel them on numerous occasions so the fight among the lads is great.

"You couldn’t fault them for a second and Joe McCarthy comes off the bench and scores a great try.

"We had a couple of more opportunities and were very close.

"We got the ball reefed out around the try line or get barged off the breakdown near the try line a few times. When you’re in semi-finals and finals you need to be able to nail your opportunities and we weren’t quite good enough today.

“Munster, you could see what it meant to them at the end. It was always going to be a very tight game and we just weren’t quite good enough today.”

For Cullen, the challenge is now to pick up his side and focus on Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle who arrive in Dublin later this week.

"For us now we can’t dwell on it too much. That’s the reality,” he said.

“We can’t dwell on it this week because we’re out again next weekend against La Rochelle here.

"They will be desperate to retain their trophy so it’s two teams going hard at it again and hopefully it will be a great occasion.

"That’s what we have to look forward to now.

“There are lot of things in that game there today that we can be better at but it’s over now. You’ve got to give Munster credit. They stuck to it right to the end.”

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