Dogged Leinster condemn misfiring Munster to fifth consecutive defeat
Munster fell to their fifth straight defeat in all competitions as Zane Kirchner's last-minute intercept try sealed a 24-7 win for Leinster at Thomond Park.
Munster 7 Leinster 24
Isa Nacewa's fifth touchdown of the campaign spurred Leo Cullen's men into a 10-0 lead by the quarter hour mark, with the 20-year-old Garry Ringrose starring in the centre.
Despite losing James Cronin and Keith Earls to injury, Munster closed the gap to three points by half-time, a converted effort from Robin Copeland getting the home fans on their feet.
Turning around with the wind behind them, Anthony Foley's charges could not outmuscle a resolute Leinster defence, and tries from Jack McGrath after 54 minutes and Kirchner saw the Blues triumph to move up one place to third in the Guinness PRO12.
A hip injury prevented Munster scrum half Conor Murray from playing, with illness sidelining BJ Botha. Tomas O'Leary and John Ryan came in as late changes as did Rory Scannell, who partnered Francis Saili in midfield.
Leinster stunned the hosts with an early try, Dominic Ryan's turnover at the breakdown launched a pacey counter from deep. The fit-again Sean O'Brien sent Ringrose raiding down the right wing, the youngster leaving two forwards for dead before passing for Nacewa to finish off by the posts.
Ian Madigan converted and soon landed his first penalty attempt following an advancing Leinster maul controlled by the impressive O'Brien. In between, Scannell sent a kickable three-pointer wide.
Individual errors spoilt Munster's attempts to get into scoring range, although direct running from replacement prop Dave Kilcoyne and captain CJ Stander saw them make some headway.
A frantic spell of Munster attacking, with Earls, Saili and Stander to the fore, ended with Mike Sherry being held up. In a further setback, Earls was stretchered off shortly afterwards, wearing a neck brace.
But Foley side's got the boost they required just before the interval when flanker Copeland scrambled over from a ruck just in front of the posts. The Scannell-converted score rewarded a prolonged bout of pressure in the Leinster 22.
Munster held that momentum into the second period, turning down two place-kicks before O'Brien came to the visitors' rescue with a vital ruck penalty.
Andrew Conway, Stander and Simon Zebo all exposed chinks in the Leinster defence, but the blue shirts scrambled to very good effect. That defensive solidity sprung them forward soon after, Nacewa pressing from a Madigan cross-field kick before prop McGrath burrowed over from a close-in ruck.
TMO Simon McDowell confirmed the try which Madigan converted to open up a 10-point lead. Foley reacted by bringing on Denis Hurley, Duncan Williams and Tommy O'Donnell, returning from the dislocated hip he suffered prior to the Rugby World Cup.
However, Munster misfired as Saili was held up in a choke tackle and a series of handling errors, allied to lineout issues, prevented them from responding on the scoreboard.
The tireless Jamie Heaslip forced an important turnover in the dying minutes for Leinster, and the icing on the cake came when Kirchner gobbled up a Saili pass and sprinted clear from his 10-metre line.