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Leinster young guns deliver impressive win as Munster consigned to away quarter-final against Ulster

Leinster 35 Munster 25

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Rory O'Loughlin celebrates with teammate Rob Russell after scoring Leinster's fourth try. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Rory O'Loughlin celebrates with teammate Rob Russell after scoring Leinster's fourth try. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Rory O'Loughlin celebrates with teammate Rob Russell after scoring Leinster's fourth try. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

For Munster, the objective was clear. Beat a second, or perhaps third-string Leinster team, and guarantee themselves a home URC quarter-final.

But it was Leinster's youngsters who rose to the occasion, instead of Munster's experienced men, as another sobering defeat at the Aviva Stadium now leaves Johann van Graan's side facing Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium. Make no mistake about it, they would prefer a trip to Belfast rather than South Africa.

Van Graan had said earlier this week that he wouldn't look to complicate matters regardless of how results elsewhere went, but the Munster head coach would have been well aware that the Stormers secured a late bonus point win over the Scarlets just before kick-off at the Aviva Stadium.

That meant Munster had to match the Stormers' bonus point win in order to finish second in the table behind Leinster, and reap the reward of a home quarter-final, and potentially, a semi-final at Thomond Park, if Van Graan's men were to advance that far.

However, they were unable to get the better of a young Leinster team, who once again showed why the future as well as the present looks so bright for the province.

A pulsating inter-pro derby played in front of a crowd of 32,411 saw Leinster edge Munster, scoring four tries courtesy of Scott Penny, Cormac Foley, Rory O'Loughlin and a penalty try, to their rivals' three from Jack O'Donoghue, Mike Haley and Conor Murray.

For all that some of Munster's attack play was sharp in the first-half, they crumbled under the pressure from a hungry Leinster team eager to make an impression.

Jordan Larmour was outstanding on his return from injury, Ryan Baird got through a huge amount of work, while Joe McCarthy added to his growing reputation with a strong showing in the second-row.

Alex Kendellen looked to take the fight to Leinster, but not enough of the impressive young back-row's team-mates followed suit.

It remains to be seen how damaging this defeat will be to Munster heading into the play-offs.

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Leinster looked like a more fluid, cohesive unit early on, as Baird won Harry Byrne's clever kick-off and then made a strong carry to stretch the Munster defence.

Ciaran Frawley spotted Penny out wide and his inch-perfect cross-field kick was gathered by the back-row, who still had plenty of work to do, as he beat Joey Carbery and finished well.

Harry Byrne was unable to add the extras but he soon made amends with a penalty after Dan Goggin was pinged.

8-0 down inside eight minutes, Munster's sloppy start sparked them into life and two tries in five minutes was just the response they required.

O'Donoghue was first to cross in the corner after Carbery and Earls had linked well to put the in-form Munster skipper over, despite the best efforts of Cormac Foley.

Andrew Conway was working hard for a way into the game and the fit-again winger almost created a try for Niall Scannell, only for Penny to put the ball into touch.

From the resulting five-metre lineout, Munster went to the maul and when Max Deegan came in at the side, the visitors scored off the free play. Kendellen made a dent in midfield and when Leinster fell asleep around the fringes of the ensuing ruck, Haley couldn't believe his luck as he picked up the ball and ran under the posts unopposed.

Carbery's conversion put Munster 12-8 in front midway through the opening half, but Leinster soon hit back.

Frawley, who was forced off with a head injury shortly after, was again central to the score, but it all started with Larmour's electric footwork, as he danced his way around several attempted tackles.

Ed Byrne then made ground before Jamie Osborne timed his pass well for Frawley, who made the line-break and then had the composure to find Foley, who had run a clever support line. Byrne converted the superb team try, as Leinster retook a 15-12 lead.

Winger Rob Russell was binned late on in the first-half for a deliberate knock on, but it was Leinster who held the slender advantage at the break.

The second-half was barely a minute old when Munster hit back with their third try. They wouldn't have cared that it arrived rather fortuitously, as Murray reacted quickest to a loose ball and ran clear to score. Carbery added to extras for a 19-15 lead.

Murray then handed Leinster a handy three points when his high tackle on Josh Murphy was punished by another Byrne penalty, which cut the gap to a point.

The topsy-turvy nature of the contest continued, as McCarthy was penalised for a deliberate knock on, but unlike Foley earlier on didn't see yellow. Carbery's penalty stretched Munster's lead, 22-18.

Cullen looked to his bench as he changed his entire front-row 10 minutes after the restart and he was immediately rewarded.

Byrne fired a penalty into the touch and as the Leinster maul marched towards the line, Munster dragged it down and referee Frank Murphy had no hesitation to award the penalty try and to make matters worse for Munster, Niall Scannell was shown a yellow card.

With a man advantage, Leinster upped the tempo and Larmour again provided the spark, as he left more defenders behind him. The ball was swept wide for McCarthy to offload to Max Deegan, who returned the favour for O'Loughlin, who did brilliantly to score the bonus-point try. Byrne's conversion put his side 32-22 in front on 55 minutes.

Carbery reduced the deficit with a penalty, but that was quickly cancelled out by Byrne launching a long-range kick between the sticks.

Munster looked to pull off the great escape, but Osborne came up with a thumping tackle on replacement Jack Daly, who was forced off injured as a result.

It just about summed up a miserable evening for Munster, as Leinster ran out deserved 10-point winners, and with, claimed the inaugural URC Irish Shield.

Scorers – Leinster: Penny, Foley, O'Loughlin try each, Penalty try, H Byrne 3 pens, 2 cons. Munster: O'Donoghue, Haley, Murray try each, Carbery 2 pens, 2 cons.

Leinster – J Larmour; R Russell, J Osborne, C Frawley (A Byrne 26), R O'Loughlin; H Byrne (D Hawkshaw 76), C Foley (B Murphy 58); E Byrne (capt) (P Dooley 49), S Cronin (J McKee 49), T Clarkson (C Healy 49); J McCarthy (A Soroka 65), J Murphy (D Toner 55); R Baird, S Penny, M Deegan.

Munster – M Haley; A Conway (B Healy 64), C Farrell, D Goggin (R Scannell 51), K Earls; J Carbery, C Murray (P Patterson 75); J Wycherley (J Loughman 51), N Scannell (D Barron 60), J Ryan (K Knox 51); J Kleyn (J Jenkins, 49), T Ahern (J Daly 64-75); F Wycherley, A Kendellen (D Barron 58-60) (Scannell 65), J O’Donoghue (capt).

Ref: F Murphy (Ireland)


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