Tuesday 28 January 2020

Leinster's unbeaten start to the season goes on with victory over Munster at Thomond Park

Munster 6 Leinster 13

28 December 2019; Ross Byrne of Leinster makes a break during the Guinness PRO14 Round 9 match between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
28 December 2019; Ross Byrne of Leinster makes a break during the Guinness PRO14 Round 9 match between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster's unbeaten start to the season goes on as Munster could not find a way to break down a dogged and determined defensive unit in front of a sold out Thomond Park.

It wasn't the most pleasing game on the eye, but Leo Cullen won't mind a jot as he saw his side grind out an impressive victory that means Leinster have now won all 13 of their games.

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Andy Farrell also watched on from the stand and will have been pleased by what he saw from several young players, who will eventually become regulars in the new Ireland head coach's setup.

Will Connors put in another immense shift in the back-row as his outstanding defence repeatedly knocked Munster back.

Caelan Doris again impressed from No 8, while Jack O'Sullivan made a big impact from the bench to offer further evidence of why Munster are so excited about his potential.

The home side were guilty for being too predictable at times, but Joey Carbery's introduction from the bench on 56 minutes changed that.

28 December 2019; Adam Byrne of Leinster is tackled by Shane Daly of Munster during the Guinness PRO14 Round 9 match between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
28 December 2019; Adam Byrne of Leinster is tackled by Shane Daly of Munster during the Guinness PRO14 Round 9 match between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The out-half got through his return from an ankle injury unscathed and showed flashes of his class without being able to change the outcome of the game.

For all of the excitement surrounding the young talent on show, it was two old wily heads in the Leinster second-row that guided their team home.

Devin Toner's work rate was through the roof while so too was Scott Fardy's, as the vastly experienced Australian came up with a match-winning turnover with four minutes left.

Munster will be kicking themselves however, particularly because they struggled to get to grips with the strong breeze throughout the first half.

Leinster ultimately handled the conditions better, yet they still had to produce a defensive masterclass to repel Munster late on.

Ed Byrne's solitary 10th minute was the difference between the two teams as a much-changed Leinster team once again came up with the goods at a difficult away venue.

Nick McCarthy in particular struggled to get any meaningful purchase on several box kicks throughout a fractured first-half, which put his side under pressure.

It was a typically frenetic opening with both sides not lacking in the physicality stakes, but Leinster slowly got a grip with proceedings.

As soon as Ross Byrne brilliantly pinned Munster back inside their own 22 on eight minutes, the visitors turned the screw.

Munster couldn't cleat their lines and off a lineout from the left, Leinster ran a slick training ground move that resulted in the game's opening try.

Conor O'Brien stepped in at first receiver and the centre's quick hands created space for Ross Byrne, who in turn fed James Lowe as he hared off his wing.

Lowe carried strongly and suddenly the Munster defence was scrambling. Jimmy O'Brien and Porter were both stopped short of the whitewash before Ed Byrne eventually powered his way over.

It was Leinster at their clinical best as Byrne added the extra two points for good measure.

Munster's problems with the elements were continuing and when Chris Cloete was pinged at the breakdown, Byrne punished the South African's indiscipline by pushing his side into a 10-0 lead.

It was all Leinster who were pushing for a second try until Jack O'Donoghue came up with a big turnover before Munster won their first of two scrum penalties in the space of a few minutes.

Another poor McCarthy box-kick was compounded by Mike Haley kicking the ball out on the full.

O'Donoghue was pinged for making contact with Scott Fardy in the air from the resulting lineout, which allowed Byrne kick a second penalty for a 13-0 lead with seven minutes of the first half remaining.

It was enough time for Munster to get themselves on the board before the break as a rare foray into the Leinster 22 yielded three points from the boot of JJ Hanrahan.

That left the hosts trailing 13-3 at the break but the gap was narrowed just three minutes after the restart when Josh Murphy was penalised for going offside. Hanrahan gladly accepted the gift from in front of the posts.

Carbery was sprung from the bench, but it was Rory Scannell's influence that was beginning to become more prominent as he demonstrated his array of kicking ability with some clever touch finders.

That was until Carbery arrowed a superb kick in behind the defence, only for Munster to again let Leinster off the hook far too easily.

It was a theme that continued right until the final play of the game when Munster failed to win their own lineout deep inside the Leinster 22 as their final roll of the dice came up short.

Munster - M Haley; D Goggin (C Nash 77), S Arnold, R Scannell, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan (J Carbery 56), N McCarthy (N Cronin 66); D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 51), K O’Byrne (D Barron 74), S Archer (K Knox 54),; F Wycherley, B Holland (capt); T O’Donnell (D O’Shea 74), C Cloete (J O’Sullivan 54), J O’Donoghue.

Leinster – H Keenan (T O'Brien 79); A Byrne, J O'Brien, C O'Brien (C Frawley 59), J Lowe; R Byrne, R Osborne (H O'Sullivan, 65); E Byrne (P Dooley 51), J Tracy (S Cronin 51), A Porter (J Aungier 74); D Toner, S Fardy; J Murphy (R Molony 65), W Connors (S Penny 76), C Doris.

REF – F Murphy (Ireland)

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