Munster 24 – Leinster 34
Joy to the world! Leinster got themselves a festive bonus point win away to Munster on St. Stephen’s Day in front of a record attendance at Thomond Park.
Leinster managed to score 3 tries in the first half to Munster’s 1. It was clear from the off that Leinster’s game plan was to bring the game to the men in red and apply as much pressure as they could early on. It was well rewarded with a penalty after 1 minute which the sniper boot of Ross Byrne kicked over.
Seven minutes later, Dan Leavy crossed the line for a fantastic try as he collected a pin point accurate cross field kick from Ross Byrne to score on the wing. Byrne kicked home the extras to make it 10 nil after 9 minutes.
3 minutes later, Munster were penalised for being offside which allowed Byrne to slot a 3 pointer between the posts to make it 13 nil after 12 minutes.
However, following a lot of phases and forward momentum from Munster, Conor Murray dived over the line to get Munster’s side of the scoreboard ticking over. Keatley missed the conversion so the score was 5-13 after 19 minutes.
2 minutes later, James Lowe kicked forward a nice grubber which he chased towards Munster’s try line, a score looked almost a certainty. However, Andrew Conway tackled Lowe before he could collect the ball which at that point only required another couple of feet from Lowe to collect and touch down over the line. Following a TMO review, Nigel Owens awarded a penalty try and handed a yellow card to Conway. After 21 minutes, the score was 5-20 to Leinster!
Another two minutes later and Leinster scored again through Robbie Henshaw. Byrne converted to extend the lead to 5-27 and it stayed that way until the half time whistle.
The second half played out very differently with Munster upping their game and improving their attacking game plan. At the 45 min mark, Ian Keatley ran in from close range for a try almost under the posts! Keatley converted the score to reduce the lead to 12-27 after 46 minutes.
Two minutes later, the constant battering of Leinster’s defence resulted in another well worked try for Munster as Conway raced for the corner. Keatley converted to bring the score very close, 19-27 after 48 minutes.
Leinster gained a lot of control back after Conway’s try and managed to start challenging Munster’s defence again whilst solidifying their own. On the 69th minute mark, it was Jordan Larmour that delivered the killer blow to the home side as he weaved and stepped around several defenders to run in a try of the season nominee from deep in Leinster’s half of the field. Byrne added the extras to top off a perfect day for him off the tee, 5 from 5. The Leinster lead was pushed out again to 19-34 with 8 minutes to go.
However, in the 76th minute, Conway scored his second try to finish off an incredible day of rugby at Thomond Park, what a Christmas cracker that was! 5 wins out of 6 for Leinster against the red army since 2014.
Given that Leinster had rested 12 first choice players for this match and Munster had more or less fielded their strongest selection possible, it was always going to be tough task for Leinster to come away with any points. But this selection from Cullen where only three players were retained from last weekend’s game against Exeter was a great reference point and further evidence of Leinster’s immense strength in depth!
The result shows how strong & ruthless Leinster is, they are able to take big teams apart and come out with maximum points against the odds. It shows you where their mindset is in terms of contending for silverware this season. Last season, Leinster looked strong around this stage of the competition but showed a lot of mental frailties against the top teams. There’s no evidence of that this season following this fixture today!
Next up, Connacht on New Years Day. Bring it on!!