irishtimes– Munster have finally ended Leinster’s hoodoo and six-match winning run in the rivalry. While they laboured a little to put away a vastly changed Leinster side, they led form pillar to post and once Conor Murray plundered his second try just past the hour Munster pulled away.
In stark contrast to the Pro14 final here four weeks ago, a locked and fully loaded Munster won the battle of the gainline and the breakdown, and with that the match.
Tadhg Beirne, Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony et al were voraciously competitive at ruck time, frequently forcing Hugh O’Sullivan to excavate for the ball. They also effectively picked their moments to counter-ruck and, especially when needed, forcing turnovers in the jackal.
Munster’s linespeed and work in contact also suffocated Leinster’s attacking game as, most untypically, the home side’s control of the ball and discipline increasingly deserted them.
With Dave Kilcoyne, CJ Stander, Damian de Allende, whose footwork and strength were always menacing, and Chris Farrell all having potent games with their carries, Murray and Joey Carbery reveled in the frontfoot ball. Although targeted again if he dallied too long on the ball, this was Carbery’s most assured performance on his road back.
Leinster had their moments, not least through the dynamic Dan Sheahan, allowing for lineout malfunctions, or Scott Penny, while Jordan Larmour tried all his tricks, but ultimately they were well shackled.
To put Munster’s win in further context, this was only Leinster’s fourth defeat in their last 47 matches.
Hence, while it may only have been the first round of the one-off Rainbow Cup but this being fifth meeting in eight months there was sufficient familiarity to further stoke the rivalry between the two.
From the off there were as much verbals and after the whistle exchanges as there had been at the Pro14 final, and ditto the cheers on-field or from the sidelines.
It transpired that Caelan Doris (calf injury) and replacement Ciarán Frawley (hamstring) both pulled up at Friday’s captain’s run, thus forcing Leinster into a reshuffle.
James Ryan was moved from the bench to the secondrow, with Ryan Baird shifting to ‘6’ and Josh Murphy to ‘8’, with the uncapped Martin Moloney promoted to the bench, as was David Hawkshaw.
Sod’s law decreed that within six minutes Hawkshaw replaced Harry Byrne, who appeared to suffer a hamstring injury. Byrne, who was injured in the warm-up of the Champions Cup game against Northampton here, looked utterly peed off.
By then, Leinster had already gone 7-0 down.
Ryan has already demonstrated he was up for this one when dragging Tadhg Beirne to the ground to spark the game’s first bout of peacocking and concede a penalty, before atoning at the ensuing lineout with the steal.
But O’Mahony promptly ripped the ball from Hugh O’Sullivan and when Carbery fedde Allende who stepped inside Penny and fended Andrew Porter to break clear.
Using his footwork to keep Jordan Larmour backpedalling, de Allende delayed his one-handed pass inside to the supporting Conor Murray, who scampered over beside the posts.
It was in attempting to tackle Murray that Byrne injured himself.
Hawkshaw was barely on the field when calmly landing a 35 metre penalty, before errors prevented either side from building any momentum and led to some scrappy exchanges.
Munster were making life particularly difficult for Hugh O’Sullivan with their counter-rucking and fringe pressure at the breakdown and rushing up on Hawkshaw.
When Carbery did so, it forced Hawkshaw back inside rather than pass where Jack O’Donohgue and the red cavalry couldmake the choke tackle. Niall Scannell’s counter-rucking then shunted Josh Murphy onto O’Sullivan and forced a fumble, before O’Sullivan’s poor pass was knocked on by Rory O’Loughlin.
One sensed the game was there for Munster to press home, but Jean Kleyn’s poor pull back actually led to Garry Ringrose hacking through and a dangerous-looking foot rush which ended with Mike Haley’s change of direction contriving to bring down three chasing Leinster players to howls from their contingent on the sideline.
Munsters’ desire was palpable but their discipline also cost them heavily. Carbery having brilliantly switched an attack with an advantage after Dave Kearney’s knocked on Scott Penny’s inside pass.
O’Donoghue’s touchfinder was old-school Munster backrow play and when Ryan Baird could bring in Sheahan’s long throw Beirne gathered to charge for the line, as then did Stander.
But an attacking penalty was reversed in Leinster’s favour on a review promoted by TMO Joy Neville which showed some old-school rucking by Stephen Archer on Ryan’s torso. He esacaped, a little fortuitously, with a yellow card.
Compensation for Munster came by way of a Carbery penalty when Penny didn’t roll away after a charge by Beirne, before O’Donoghue’s over-exuberant, no arms clear out on Ed Byrne, but Hawkshaw missed the penalty with the last kick of the half.
After Kleyn’s poor hands mucked up another attack and Porter’s strength over the ball lifted another one with Kilcoyne, twice, and Stander making big charges.
Leinster upped the tempo after Haley failed to gather a good box kick by O’Sullivan and Lowe stripped Earls, and looked sure to score when going to the corner. But the maul was held up and O’Donoghue won a turnover penalty in the jackal.
Munster botched an attacking lineout but when Neville brought the attention of referee Chris Busby to Baird blatantly obstructing Carbery, the latter made it a two-score game.
Leinster did break out brilliantly with a counter from deep after Kilcoyne’s poor pass to Scannell. Lowe released hooker Sheahan on the left wing and true to type he showed the speed of a winger and then the skills of one too with a pass inside to O’Sullivan who linked with Larmour at full tilt but Ed Byrne stepped back into traffic and the chance went.
Game over and the Munster pack had the satisfaction of earning a penalty try when their cleverly set-up maul was hauled down, the debutant Leinster scrum-half O’Sullivan also being binned.
Munster’s day, emphatically enough in the end.
Scoring sequence: 5 mins Murray try, Carbery con 0-7; 9 mins Hawkshaw pen 3-7; 37 mins Carbery pen 3-10; (half-time 3-10); 53 mins Carbery pen 3-13; 62 mins Murray try, Carbery con 3-20; 72 mins penalty try 3-27.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose (capt), Rory O’Loughlin, James Lowe; Harry Byrne, Hugh O’Sullivan; Ed Byrne, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter; Ross Molony, Ryan Baird; Josh Murphy, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris. Replacements: David Hawkshaw for H Byrne (6 mins), Seán Cronin for Sheahan, Peter Dooley for E Byrne, Michael Bent for Porter (all 58 mins), Scott Fardy for Ryan (61 mins), Tommy O’Brien for Ringrose (59 mins), Cormac Foley for O’Sullivan (67 mins), Martin Moloney for Baird (73 mins). Sinbinned – Foley (72 mins)
Munster: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements: Keynan Knox for O’Donoghue (42-44 and 67 mins), Fineen Wycherley for Kleyn, Gavin Coombes for O’Donoghue (both 56 mins), Jeremy Loughman for Kilcoyne (59 mins), Craig Casey for Murray (63 mins), Calvin Nash for Earls (64 mins), Ben Healy for Carbery (68 mins), Diarmuid Barron for Scannell (73 mins). Sinbinned – Archer (34-44 mins).