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Leinster’s Jamison Gibson Park celebrates with Gary Ringrose and Caelan Doris after scoring. Billy Stickland/INPHO
Derby

Larmour try proves decisive as Leinster edge Munster at Aviva Stadium

Tries from Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Sheehan and Jordan Larmour saw Leinster over the line in Dublin.

Leinster 21

Munster 16

THIS WAS FAR from vintage Leinster but under the lights at a packed Aviva Stadium, Leo Cullen’s side were able to keep Munster at bay and come through a disjoined performance with a 21-16 URC win.

Craig Casey’s early score gave Munster a good platform but tries from Jamison Gibson-Park and Dan Sheehan had Leinster in the driving seat at half-time, with Jordan Larmour’s 66th-minute score proving the decisive moment of a niggly second-period.

Munster take a losing bonus point back to Limerick but will be disappointed not to have built on their strong start here. 

It’s been a tense couple of days in Dublin and there was a notably increased police presence on the journey out from the city centre to Aviva Stadium. Inside the ground, there was a real sense of occasion as just under 50,000 supporters turned up for the first Leinster-Munster clash of the season. After the pre-show fire and light display died down, the recently-retired Johnny Sexton was introduced to the crowd for his official farewell.

former-leinster-player-jonathan-sexton-takes-to-the-pitch-ahead-of-the-game-with-his-son-luca Johnny Sexton was introduced to the crowd before the game. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Times are changing at Leinster, with Sexton gone and the arrival of Jacques Nienaber imminent. Their ambition this year is to get back to winning ways on the back of two trophyless seasons. Given it was Munster who ended their URC hopes at this ground last season, an extra bit of edge was expected in Dublin 4 but instead the hosts limped out of the gates.

After a slow start which included plenty of kicking, it was Munster who sparked some life into proceedings.

Simon Zebo – starting at fullback for the first time since 2018 – took advantage of Garry Ringrose shooting up to race into the space behind. From there Zebo did brilliantly to link with Calvin Nash, who in turn found Antoine Frisch, the centre offloading to Craig Casey who finished in the corner. Jack Crowley added the conversion from the touchline and Munster were humming. Ross Byrne will have been disappointed with his attempted tackle on Casey and it proved to be his last action of the evening, the Leinster out-half making way with what appeared a bicep injury as Ciarán Frawley entered the game.

craig-casey-celebrates-after-scoring-his-sides-opening-try Craig Casey's try gave Munster an early lead. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Munster went after a second, Ringrose missing another tackle on Crowley before the visitors were held up over the line.

Leinster looked rattled, and when Robbie Henshaw was pinged for coming in at the side Crowley kicked Munster into a 10-0 lead with just over 10 minutes played.

That would be as good as it got for Munster in the opening period, as while Leinster continued to struggle for cohesion – making a series of uncharacteristically sloppy errors – they managed to wrestle the momentum back in their favour.

Many of Leinster’s best moments involved Frawley as the spark. It was his excellent break midway through the first half which saw Garry Ringrose race toward the tryline, Leinster going close before Rory Scannell was yellow-carded for a cynical foul.

Frawley kicked to the corner and Leinster looked primed to land their first blow of the night, only to turn the ball over from the lineout.

When their opening did finally arrive, it was served up on a plate. With Leinster applying good pressure on halfway, Tadhg Beirne through a loose offload and Jamison Gibson-Park pounced, booting the ball forward before chasing his kick and collecting to score. Frawley converted and Leinster were in the game.

simon-zebo-makes-a-break Simon Zebo had some excellent moments on a rare start at fullback. Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

They continued to dominate the ball but couldn’t add the killer touch until five minutes before the break, when Dan Sheehan threw himself over the line from a Leinster lineout. 

In between Leinster continuously fluffed their lines –  Jimmy O’Brien spilling a high ball under little pressure in his own half; Jordan Larmour failing to hit O’Brien as the pair threatened down the left flank.

When they did manage to piece their passes together, they still found themselves frustrated by some strong Munster defence – Beirne proving disruptive at the maul and ripping the ball back for his team as Leinster looked for an opening in front of the posts.

Both teams would have felt they had more in the tank as Leinster took a four-point lead into the break. 

In the early stages of the second half, Leinster continued to attack, and Munster continued to hold them off – an excellent period of Munster defence seeing Crowley bring down Andrew Porter before stealing in after a superb John Hodnett tackle for the jackal turnover.

Minutes later Crowley pulled his team to within one point by nailing his second penalty of the night after O’Brien knocked-on.

At the other end Tadhg Furlong was guilty of the same, spilling a pass forward with Leinster five metres out. In the next passage Hodnett turned the ball over again brilliantly, sparking a huge roar from the travelling support.

rory-scannell-is-tackled-by-robbie-henshaw-and-garry-ringrose Munster's Rory Scannell is tackled by Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose of Leinster. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Munster’s next visit to the Leinster 22 started with an excellent attacking move but ended with another big defensive moment as Caelan Doris stole in with an important turnover. 

Eventually, Leinster cut through the tension to extend their lead. Parked in the Munster  22 with their path to the tryline congested, Gibson-Park spun a pass out wide to Larmour. The Leinster wing had plenty of work to do but stepped inside Daly, watched Zebo slip past and scored in the corner with Alex Kendellan hanging out of him. Frawley was on target again from the touchline to push his team eight clear.

Larmour’s score took the sting out of the contest as Munster tried to summon a response. 

A Crowley penalty clipped the post as he cut the deficit to six with six minutes to play.

With Crowley’s heroics last May here in mind, Munster had their chances to steal another last-gasp win; Conor Murray breaking down the left before another Doris steal brought the crowd to their feet, Leinster holding on to take the win on a night both teams will have regrets over aspects of their performance. 

Leinster scorers:

Tries – Gibson-Park, Sheehan, Larmour

Conversions – Frawley [3/3]

Munster scorers:

Try – Casey

Conversion – Crowley [1/1]

Penalty – Crowley [3/3]

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose (co-captain), Robbie Henshaw, Jimmy O’Brien; Ross Byrne (Ciarán Frawley, 8), Jamison Gibson-Park (Ben Murphy, 73); Andrew Porter (Jack Boyle, 73), Dan Sheehan (Rónan Kelleher, 59, Tadhg Furlong (Michael Ala’alatoa, 59); Joe McCarthy, James Ryan (co-captain) (Ross Molony, 68); Jack Conan, Josh van der Flier (Scott Penny, 59), Caelan Doris (James Culhane, 80). 

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Shay McCarthy, 68); Calvin Nash (Shay McCarthy, 21-31) HIA), Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell (Tony Butler, 73), Shane Daly; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey (Conor Murray, 51); Jeremy Loughman (Dave Kilcoyne, 53), Diarmuid Barron (captain), Stephen Archer (John Ryan, 58); Jean Kleyn (Brian Gleeson, 69), Tadhg Beirne; Tom Ahern, John Hodnett (Alex Kendellen, 62), Gavin Coombes. 

Yellow card: Rory Scannell 21 

Referee: Chris Busby [IRFU]

Attendance: 49,246

Written by Ciarán Kennedy and posted on the42.ie

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