Peter O'Mahony passionately defends late Munster penalty gamble
"It's easy to say in hindsight."
Leinster are setting the standard in Europe and in the Guinness PRO14, Peter O'Mahony admitted after his Munster side fell 16-15 to the Blues in their league semi-final at The RDS. There was not much else for the Munster captain to say but he was never going to get out of the post-match press briefing that easily.
O'Mahony was one of a number of Munster players, including John Ryan, CJ Stander and Keith Earls, to have decent games but he did have to face a few questions about a penalty call that blew up in his face.
With Leinster leading 13-8 with 12 minutes to go, referee Stu Berry awarded Munster a penalty 35 metres and slightly left of the posts. Conor Murray looked eager to kicked his side within two points and a goal-kick was initially indicated but O'Mahony intervened and a decision was then made to go for the posts.
Murray kicked to touch and Munster had an attacking lineout seven metres from the Leinster tryline. James Ryan did enough to disrupt the Munster throw and even though they retained possession, the Leinster lock then thumped into Murray and Munster's set-play was no more. They went wide, left to right, but an isolated Jean Kleyn conceded a turnover after a fine James Tracy tackle.
What could have been a two-point game going into the last 10 minutes remained 13-8 and, a couple of minutes later, Joey Carbery extended Leinster's lead by another three points. Gerrandt Grobler got a late try and Munster got the ball back with less than a minute to go but a Max Deegan turnover for Leinster saw the hosts win by a point.
Munster head coach Johann van Graan admitted a point was 'the biggest and smallest of margins in rugby' and it was left to O'Mahony to defend his big call.
"It's easy to say in hindsight," O'Mahony began,
"But there are decisions to be made out there after 65 minutes of rugby, d'ya know what I mean?
"That's my call. I've got to make those calls, d'ya know what I mean?"
Asked what his sense of the game at the time of his decision to go for an attacking lineout, O'Mahony responded:
"I felt like we had a lot of momentum. We were winning a lot of collisions, we were going well up the field. That was my decision at the time and that was the way I felt we were going.
"Look, if we had've gone down there and scored, that would have been a big momentum-changer obviously," he continued, "but we were inaccurate with the lineout. It put us on the back-foot and we conceded a penalty there for holding on."
Ultimately, Munster will be left ruing not only that call but the Jean Kleyn yellow card late in the first half and the concession of a few silly penalties.
O'Mahony and his teammates were gracious in defeat but, like their Champions Cup semi final exit at the hands of Racing, you feel that this defeat will sting all summer.
Close but not close enough.