Leo Cullen feared getting ‘mugged’ by Munster at the end of Pro 14 final

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The defending champions dominated the match at the RDS Arena but were made to settle for a modest 16-6 scoreline as they chalked up their fourth consecutive title and eighth overall. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan
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By Jack Davies, PA

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted fearing his side may be “mugged” by Munster in the closing stages of the Guinness PRO14 final.

The defending champions dominated the match at the RDS Arena but were made to settle for a modest 16-6 scoreline as they chalked up their fourth consecutive title and eighth overall.

Munster had to soak up sustained periods of pressure during the first half but went in level at 6-6 at the break after Leinster failed to convert their chances.

Jack Conan’s 46th-minute try put daylight between the sides, with Ross Byrne kicking the rest of Leinster’s points, but Cullen conceded his team’s failure to pull clear in the opening period had made him nervous.

“I’m delighted with the win,” he said. “It was a strange sort of game.You had a sort of sense that you may get mugged here at the end."

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We started the game with really good intent. We made a few different line breaks at stages in the first half and then suddenly you walk in at half-time at 6-6 and you’re like, I don’t like the look of this.

“For all the pressure and good play that we had, we weren’t converting that into scoreboard pressure in any real way.

“To be fair to the players they were very composed at half-time and came out super intense at the start of the second half. The only difference is that we actually got over for the try and were a little bit more patient in the build-up to that.

“But at half-time we were nervous because we weren’t really converting some of the line breaks we were creating into points. Obviously in finals that’s the most important piece isn’t it, points. Thankfully we had enough at the end.”

Asked what his message to the players was at half-time, Cullen – who was boosted by the return of a number of Ireland internationals from Guinness Six Nations duty, including try-scorer Conan – added: “It was kind of stay to what we were doing and clear up some of the communication really.

“It looked like we lacked a little bit of cohesion as a group, which is probably to be expected when you think our last game together as a group was against the same opposition at the end of January.”

Munster – beaten at the semi-final stage by Leinster in the previous three seasons – were chasing their first title in a decade but spent much of the match in their own half and could only muster a pair of penalties from Joey Carbery.

“What you’ve got to give Leinster credit for is once they’ve gone ahead, it’s virtually impossible to catch them,” said Munster head coach Johann Van Graan.

“We came here to win and we believed that we could, but fair play to them they’ve won four PRO14s in a row now. They are currently the best team by a mile.”

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