Quinlan doubt for Lions as Munster suffer shock
IAN McGeechan will wait anxiously to discover whether the fall-out from Leinster's Heineken Cup semi-final victory over Munster rules Alan Quinlan out of his Lions plans.
Quinlan, a surprise inclusion in McGeechan's 37-man squad, was preferred to the likes of Tom Croft and Ryan Jones because of his committed style, character and potential influence.
But the veteran flanker is at the centre of a gouging storm after being caught on camera appearing to make contact with the right eye of Leo Cullen in Munster's 25-6 loss to Leinster.
The independent disciplinary officer, John Byett from England, has until 7.30pm tomorrow to study the tape and decide whether the incident was worthy of a citing.
A suspension would almost certainly rule Quinlan, 34, out of the Lions tour and force McGeechan to make a second change to his personnel before the squad have even met up.
Quinlan's Munster team-mate Tomas O'Leary suffered a fractured ankle just three days after being selected for this summer's tour of world champions South Africa. The Lions management met in Cardiff yesterday to finalise O'Leary's replacement in the squad.
McGeechan will have been relieved to discover that none of his Lions suffered any major injuries in a ferocious encounter at Croke Park. But he may well be concerned at how a Munster side featuring seven of the 2009 Lions, including captain Paul O'Connell, were battered into submission as Leinster reached their first Heineken Cup final.
Ronan O'Gara struggled, O'Connell was quiet and rookie Keith Earls was comprehensively outplayed by Gordon D'Arcy, one of those he beat to Lions selection last week. Conversely, all of Leinster's big names stood up. D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald and Brian O'Driscoll scored the tries but the victory was based on an immense defensive performance led by the Australian flanker Rocky Elsom.
Leinster were also inspired by some of their lesser lights. Johnny Sexton was assured after being thrust in as a first-half replacement for Felipe Contepomi while loose-head prop Cian Healy also enhanced his burgeoning reputation.
Munster had been strong favourites but Leinster unleashed three years of frustration that dates back to their semi-final defeat in 2006.
"People had questioned our pride and our passion but we produced a big passionate performance to prove those critics wrong," said O'Driscoll. "We had also lost to Munster twice this season and we really felt we owed them one."
Leinster delivered it with the same brand of steely determination that earned them a quarter-final win at Harlequins but they also brought a clinical edge in attack.
D'Arcy finished off an incisive break from Isa Nacewa and Fitzgerald jinked over to establish Leinster's superiority at 18-6 early in the second half after Munster had been undone by quick hands from O'Driscoll and Shane Horgan. O'Driscoll then sealed victory by intercepting an O'Gara pass intended for O'Connell and racing 70 metres to score.
Scorers: Munster: Pen: O'Gara. Drop goal: O'Gara. Leinster: Tries: D'Arcy, Fitzgerald, O'Driscoll. Cons: Sexton 2. Pen: Sexton. Drop goal: Contepomi.
Munster: Warwick; Howlett, Earls, Mafi, Dowling; O'Gara, Stringer; Horan, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Connell, Quinlan, Wallace, Leamy. Subs: Murphy for Warwick (66), D. Hurley for Earls (78), Prendergast for Stringer (74), Fogarty for Flannery (71), Buckley for Hayes (68), O'Driscoll for O'Callaghan (74), Ronan for Leamy (66).
Leinster: Nacewa; Horgan, O'Driscoll, D'Arcy, Fitzgerald; Contepomi, Whitaker; Healy, Jackman, Wright, Cullen, O'Kelly, Elsom, Jennings, Heaslip. Subs: Dempsey for Fitzgerald (59), Sexton for Contepomi (25), Fogarty for Jackman (62), O'Brien for Jennings (74).
Ref: Nigel Owens (Wales). Att: 82,208
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