28th December 2006 By Munster Rugby
Munster’s 25-11 win over Leinster at a packed Thomond Park lifts them above Connacht for the first time season just four days before the visit to Galway.
“Delighted”. Paul O’Connell answered when asked for his immediate reaction to his side’s victory yesterday over Leinster “It gets our Magners League campaign back on track. Its great to beat them after losing very disappointingly in Lansdowne Road. Everyone knows what goes with a Munster Leinster game. We have a lot of respect for them so anytime we beat them we’re thrilled.
And what pleased the Munster captain most ? “The work rate is always there but sometimes this year we haven’t played with the smarts or intelligence we normally play with. We had a lot of luck and we used our luck, took our chances. Rog’s kicking as usual was outstanding and when we got down their end, we took our chances and kept the scoreboard ticking over.”
“Our discipline was good. I think we got penalties in the right places and that was a big part of it. Rog is a very tidy kicker. In the Leinster game in Lansdowne Road we got very slow ball, they got quick ball, they got a lot of poaches. I think it’s a part of our game we’ve worked on a lot, spoken a lot about it and it worked well on Wednesday.
“At half time we made a decision to tighten up a bit. Frankie was in the bin and we didn’t want to try and run around too much so we decided to tighten it up for ten minutes and it probably worked for us. I don’t think it was a conscious decision. We just knew we had to. In those circumstances, things kinda happen, things kick into place.
“We managed to get down there and as I said managed to take our chances. Their defence was excellent. They kept putting it behind us in the first half and we went in a point down so we knew we had to change tack.
And the entire occasion compared with Heineken Cup ? “It was a great atmosphere. Everyone can travel and they had a good support down. I think these big derbies over Christmas with full grounds are absolutely brilliant for Irish rugby. You look at the Leinster /Ulster game on Saturday, it’s going to be brilliant. The more packed stadiums you have the more exciting it becomes.”
And looking ahead to the weekend ? “We have what is relatively going to be one of our biggest matches of our Magners League season against Connacht on Sunday in Galway. So we have to put this one behind us very quickly and move on because this one on Sunday could make or break our season in terms of qualification for European rugby next season”.
And how has the hectic nature of the past few weeks, Heineken Cup, warm weather training followed by three games in 11 days affected the players ? “Last week in Portugal was a fairly R&R week I mean lads trained hard but they weren’t putting on the boots and going scrummaging and lineout jumping in cold wet damp pitches and that’s the good thing about that week in Portugal. Sometimes maybe people complain but it is a chance to have a small bit of pre-season during the season, do your weights, do your speed work, I think guys were fresh enough there on Wednesday. Just this one now is going to be very tough. A four day in soccer is possible but in rugby it’s a very very tough thing to do.”
The Munster captain paid special tribute to his colleague John O’Sullivan, “It’s very hard to sit there in the background year on year and not get your chance. Then when you get your chance you get it in a depleted Magners League team. Obviously its great for a lad to get a chance with the full team and I think John did very well.
“I think some guys drop the head when they don’t make it through and John probably rates himself highly enough that he’s kept at it, kept showing up for training full of beans, full of energy. It’s paid off. All the players were delighted for him”.