Saturday 17 November 2018

'As good a try as I've seen' - Leinster coach Leo Cullen on a magical score against Munster

Munster 24 Leinster 34

Jordan Larmour of Leinster beats the tackle by Ian Keatley of Munster on his way to scoring his side's fourth try during the Guinness PRO14 match at Thormond Park (Sportsfile)
Jordan Larmour of Leinster beats the tackle by Ian Keatley of Munster on his way to scoring his side's fourth try during the Guinness PRO14 match at Thormond Park (Sportsfile)

Des Berry

Leinster came saw and conquered Munster for five points at Thomond Park.

The dream start for 13 points in as many minutes came from the boot of Ross Byrne and Dan Leavy’s try to silence the home crowd. 

It was then Munster hit back with a Conor Murray try in the 18th minute.

Leinster wing James Lowe was hampered by Andrew Conway for a penalty try - Conway was binned - and Robbie Henshaw finished off a brilliant counter attack for 27-5 at the break.

It was then Munster put their foot down for Ian Keatley and Conway to nab two converted tries in three minutes to make it 27-19 in the 50th minute.

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Jordan Larmour's 69th-minute bonus-point score broke up what had been a stirring second-half fightback from the hosts on what proved to be a memorable afternoon for the visitors.

It inspired Leinster coach Leo Cullen to offer up a lavish tribute to Larmour after his stunning try: "We took our chances when they came and that gave us a little bit of a lead. After that we probably lost our way a little bit, particularly at the start of the second half when we did a few dumb things which gives Munster a good bit of access into our end and when they’re down there, they’re very, very dangerous.

"Thankfully we were able to steady the flow for a period and keep the score to eight points which was important as I think if they get to one score, it changes the complexion of the game quite drastically.

"Then Jordan pops up with as good a try as I’ve ever seen. Amazing bit of individual brilliant from him which extends out the score and we’re able to take a sigh because I was getting a bit nervous before that."

The capacity crowd of 26,267 roared its approval as tries from Ian Keatley (45) and Andrew Conway (48), adding to Conor Murray's first-half effort, got Munster back in contention at 27-19. However, Larmour consigned the men in red to their first home defeat since February before Conway's second try earned Munster a battling bonus point.

The visitors sprinted ahead early on. Leavy forced a penalty at the very first breakdown, with fly-half Byrne swinging over a well-struck kick from the right for the opening points inside two minutes. Like Leavy, Conway was also heavily involved in the early exchanges, testing out Barry Daly's defence in the Leinster 22. However, the visitors built a 13-0 lead in as many minutes.

James Lowe, making his first appearance on Irish soil, and Larmour injected pace in a free-flowing break from halfway, and with space on the opposite wing, Byrne's cross-field kick gave Leavy a simple run-in for his eighth-minute try.

The increasingly influential Leinster number 10 added a terrific conversion from out wide and then nailed a penalty from the 10-metre line as Munster, who were hoping to win on captain Peter O'Mahony's 100th appearance, continued to struggle with their discipline and kick transition.

Johann van Graan's charges did manage to free up Alex Wootton along the left touchline and, with further momentum from a penalty and clever maul move in the 17th minute, Murray dived over in the left corner for a much-needed five-pointer.

However, Munster entered the second quarter 20-5 down and with full-back Conway in the sin-bin. His early tackle on Lowe, as the pair chased a Larmour kick up to the Munster try-line, saw referee Nigel Owens award a penalty try, having consulted with the television match official.

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Jordan Larmour of Leinster celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's fourth try

It got even worse for O'Mahony and his team-mates in the 22nd minute as they allowed Rory O'Loughlin to counter brilliantly from deep and link with the supporting Daly, whose pass out of a tackle sent Henshaw over to the right of the posts.

The tables were very much turned on the resumption, however, with Keatley sniping over for a galvanising try.

Suddenly, the momentum was all with Munster as Keatley converted and then added the extras to a classy score from Conway, who cut inside the otherwise impressive Larmour and finished smartly past Daly, the final defender, wide on the right.

A breathless and frenzied passage of play saw both defences come under waves of pressure. Leavy stepped up for the visitors, winning a crucial turnover penalty in his 22, and Larmour took centre-stage two minutes later.

The Dubliner's pace and blinding footwork carved open the Munster defence on a kick return and the resulting try gave Leinster breathing space, with Byrne's conversion making it 34-19.

Conway's well-taken 76th-minute try ensured the hosts at least had something to show for their frenetic second-half comeback, but the visitors' bench, which included Tadhg Furlong and Josh van der Flier, helped them seal their second season double over Munster in three years.

Munster: Conway; Sweetnam, Arnold, R Scannell, Wootton; Keatley, Murray; Kilcoyne, O'Byrne, Archer; Kleyn, Holland; O'Mahony (capt), O'Donnell, Stander.

Replacements: N Scannell, Cronin, Ryan, O'Shea, O'Donoghue, Williams, Hanrahan, Zebo.

Leinster: Larmour; Daly, O'Loughlin, Henshaw, Lowe; R Byrne, Gibson-Park; McGrath (capt), Tracy, Bent; Toner, Ryan; Murphy, Leavy, Conan

Replacements: Strauss, E Byrne, Furlong, M Kearney, Van der Flier, McCarthy, Marsh, Reid.

Referee: N Owens (Wales)

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