Concussion concern for BOD mars Leinster's pulsating derby win
Published 29/03/2014 | 21:00
Leinster edged close to confirming a home semi-final play-off in the Pro12. They would seem to be in rude health ahead of Heineken Cup combat were it not for the latest in a worrying sequence of concussions for Brian O'Driscoll.
Despite scoring the match-winning try, the inspirational centre took a heavy knock and visibly struggled to walk before he was removed from the fray in the 66th minute by team doctor Prof Arthur Tanner.
Munster have their own worries too; despite leaving the points behind, as Peter O'Mahony was ruled out before kick-off with a hamstring twinge; the feeling is he'll be good to go against Toulouse next week.
Leinster will pray O'Driscoll can face Toulon.
Munster were dealt a pre-match blow when captain O'Mahony was ruled out with a "hamstring twinge", team speak for he was carrying an injury all week but would have played had this been a Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulouse.
No matter; Munster's first scrum produced a fourth minute lead from Ian Keatley's boot, even if the errant hand in the push may have been a red-clad one. Little sign of favouritism from former Leinster man Alain Rolland here.
Munster opened possessed with furious intent; more combative direct running, initiated by breaks from Simon Zebo and Keatley, allowed the latter to double the scores by the 8th minute.
We had presumed that Leinster would be the more battle-hardened of the pair
It didn't look like it in the early throes. Munster propelled themselves at their opponents who, occasional flourishes from Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald, struggled to gain any foothold in proceedings against their uninhibited foes.
Their chief profits were from the scrum; Michael Bent was, shall we say, bent in another scrum by BJ Botha's power drive and Keatley drove the three points for as 9-0 lead in the 23rd minute.
An error soon afterwards from Felix Jones allowed Ian Madigan a difficult chance to open his side's account; he did so from a difficult left-sided angle some 40 metres out.
Their scrum woes increased though; now Mike Ross was done by Dave Kilcoyne. Keatley pinged the ultimate punishment; 12-3 on the half-hour.
In a growing war of attrition; Ross then did for Kilcoyne, after Luke Fitzgerald carried Felix Jones ad ball over the goal-line following a clever O'Driscoll dink moments before the break.
There was still time for Denis Hurley to infringe but, incredibly, Madigan fluffed his lines; the half-time scoreline remained more reflective of proceedings they had, with limited ambition, patiently dominated.
Leinster needed a spark after the break; Eoin Reddan provided it with a searing blindside break that consumed some 40 metres; an ensuring penalty allowed Madigan to make amends for his error and fire Leinster to 9-12.
Leinster were far sharper now; another penalty from more potent ball-carrying and excellent breakdown work allowed Madigan to level the scores in the 51st minute. Who could kick on?
Munster, with Dave Kilcoyne binned and Denis Hurley pushing on the flank, defended for their lives but they couldn't hold out.
Cometh the hour, cometh the great man.
O'Driscoll's stunning pass to Shane Jennings was reciprocated by a fine off-load despite Laulala's tackle; the retiring centre's gliding finish produced the throatiest roar of the evening.
Now 19-12 ahead with 22 minutes on the clock, it seemed as if Munster's race was won. As if.
Back they came with thunderous intent; Keatley's penalty edged Munster nearer.
As O'Driscoll, knees wobbling, departed without seemingly knowing what day it was, Leinster tried to keep their poise.
Forced to draft a loose-head to play tight-head, Munster added another penalty with three minutes remaining.
A midfield offside did for their late riposte though; Madigan sailed a penalty through the posts with 80 seconds on the clock. 22-18. Game over.
Until the next time which, if results in both competitions go a certain way, could be sooner than we think.
Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (Z Kirchner 66), G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan, E Reddan; M Bent, R Strauss (S Cronin 65), M Ross (J O'Connell 77); D Toner, M McCarthy (L Cullen 65); K McLaughlin (J Murphy 68), S Jennings, J Heaslip.
Munster: F Jones (G van der Heever 66); K Earls, C Laulala, D Hurley (JJ Hanrahan 66), S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 72), D Varley (D Casey 59), BJ Botha; D Foley (D O'Callaghan 67), P O' Connell; P O'Mahony, T O'Donnell (J Cronin 56-66), J Coughlan.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU).