Time for Munster and Leinster to take stock following semi-final disappointment

Munster coach Graham Rowntree frustrated by the inability to seal home final against the Bulls

Glasgow Warriors celebrate victory over Munster at Thomond Park as Andrea Piardi blows the final whistle to effectively signal an end to Munster's season. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

On a disappointing day for Irish rugby, defending champions Munster and Leinster failed to negotiate their respective semi-finals in the United Rugby Championship (URC), the final of which will now be contested by the Bulls and Glasgow Warriors in Pretoria next Saturday.

Munster lost 17-10 to Glasgow at Thomond Park in a game they might have won but they were unable to convert possession and territory into points.

Head coach Graham Rowntree said: “It’s going to take a while for that to sink in. Hugely frustrating, you get yourself in a position, home semi-final and then the game got away from us.

“It’s about taking opportunities, using the possession and territory that we had. We didn’t take our opportunities. They got the tries without having to do much, to be honest with you and then we tried a bit too hard near the try-line.

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“Credit to them, they were tenacious. I just said to the group there, we are saying goodbye to some big names [including Simon Zebo, Joey Carbery, Antoine Frish, RG Snyman] who deserve better if I am honest with you. It will take a while to sink in.”

Rowntree was asked what message he might have for the Munster supporters. He replied: “Stick with us, keep the faith; you know, 23 months ago, [we] put a new coaching team together, it’s changed how we’re playing the game.

“Since then, we’ve won a trophy, finished top of the league in our second season and [earned] a home semi-final. We lost our way in a knockout game tonight, through two bounces of the ball.

“There’s a lot there that the fans can see where we’re going. The players are enjoying the brand of rugby, playing a brand of rugby that everyone wants to see. We came up short tonight, it’s going to sting. It won’t derail us by any means. The fans will stay with us, I know that. I don’t need to give them a message.”

Bulls' Johan Goosen and David Kriel celebrate the victory over Leinster at Loftus Versfeld Stadium. Photograph: Deon van der Merwe/Steve Haag Sports/Inpho

Leinster also experienced disappointment for the second time in a couple of weeks – they lost the Champions Cup final to Toulouse – as they were beaten 25-20 by the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. There was also a transitory theme in player terms from head coach Leo Cullen as he pondered the loss.

“We’ve got some great servants that will be moving on to different challenges, some guys are retiring, and we’ll have some fresh faces coming in to join us as well. It’s how we go about it in terms of building that group together again.

“We’ll have the advantage of a coaching group that will be there for preseason which probably we didn’t have for the season just gone. It’s a challenge but we’ll build again. There’s some good young guys coming through, and we’ll see them emerge as the course of the season goes, and some other guys who will be joining us from outside as well.”

Elsewhere, the Ireland Men’s and Women’s rugby Sevens squads for the Paris Olympics are expected to be announced today.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer