Leinster edge thrilling derby against Munster

Oh how we missed this.

Covid-19 saw to it that the last two Christmas derbies between Munster and Leinster were postponed, but at the third time of asking they served us up a classic, with all the trimmings.

More nuanced analysis will follow, but the simple reading of this game is that two excellent teams went at it, but Leinster just edged it.

It was everything you could want in an Interpro. The first half was low-scoring – Munster edging 7-6 in front at the break – but it was engrossing. There was a ferocity in the contact area and an excellent battle at the breakdown seeing momentum swing back and forth.

A Gavin Coombes try, converted by Joey Carbery, and two Ross Byrne penalties were the only scores in that opening 40, but in recent years, points have been too easy to come by in this derby.

The second half was even better; every bit as tense, but a bit more open. A Munster penalty try only served to poke the bear as Leinster hit them with two tries in five minutes, first from Scott Penny and then from Dan Sheehan.

A lot of teams could have rolled over in that position, but Munster roared back with a third try, this time from Patrick Campbell.

They couldn’t complete the comeback, Leinster’s depth showing in the final quarter as they managed the clock to perfection, maintaining their 100% start, while Munster now look to pick themselves up for a crucial New Year’s Day trip to Belfast to face Ulster.

There was a great edge to the game early on, Leinster getting off to a quick 3-0 lead when Byrne landed a penalty from 40 meters after Niall Scannell failed to roll away at a ruck.

Three great minutes of ball-in-play followed, Munster’s varied attack getting some good gainline success, while Ryan Baird put in a rib-tickling tackle on Carbery that left the Munster out-half needing treatment from the medics.

Carbery seemed to have a target on his back. On 12 minutes he was on the receiving end of another crunching tackle, this time from Joe McCarthy, in main part down to his willingness to bring the ball right to the point of contact.

Leo Cullen’s side extended their lead to 6-0 on 20 minutes when Byrne knocked over his second penalty of the night from the edge of the 22, while Carbery missed the opportunity to cut the deficit in half moments later, pulling his penalty attempt left and wide after a dominant scrum.

The only downside of what had been an enjoyable first half had been that the majority of it had been played between the two 22 meter lines, but after Munster’s Niall Scannell broke through the Leinster defense with a piercing run on 29 minutes it led to the game’s opening try.

Scannell had been stopped short of the line, and after multiple pick-and-go attempts a penalty followed. Munster went route one, Scannell again tapping and running, with Coombes (above) eventually bundling his way over for the first try of the game, and Carbery converting to put Munster ahead for the first time at 7-6.

They were lucky to bring that lead to the half-time break. Despite big defensive moments by Carbery and O’Mahony, Murray unwisely chose to kick possession back to Leinster with just 10 seconds of regulation time remaining, and while it led to a Leinster penalty, the scrum-half would have been relieved to see Byrne’s kick drift right and wide.

The hosts had lost a bit of composure late in the first half, but came out hot after the break, extending their lead to 14-6 on 43 minutes.

After Leinster were penalized twice in succession, Munster again went for the corner and after the visitors hauled down the juggernauting maul, referee Chris Busby ran in under the posts to award a penalty try, sin-binning the guilty party Max Deegan.

Having fallen 14-6 behind, Leinster’s response was instant.

A penalty in midfield gave them field position, and after Munster infringed again close to the tryline, a cleverly executed pick-and-go move saw Penny pop through a gap to score.

Byrne converted to close the gap to a point, and by the 54th minute his side had gone in front.

It started when Earls dropped a simple high-ball in his own 22, eventually leading to a penalty, and while Leinster have become masters of the five meter pick-and-go, Munster defense coach Denis Leamy will be furious with how easily Sheehan powered through to score.

Byrne’s third conversion sent his side 20-14 in front. They’d won the sin-bin period 14-0.

It was becoming breathless and brilliant, Munster coming straight back up the pitch to force a penalty right under the Leinster posts. It would have been a simple three points for Carbery, but they turned it down in favor of a drive for the tryline. A mix-up between Casey and Beirne saw the attack stopped in its tracks.

Casey made amends quickly, landing at 50:22 after a turnover at the ruck to put his side back on the attack, and the scrum-half’s lightning delivery saw his side continue to make ground , his looping, skip-pass falling into the hands of replacement Patrick Campbell who dived over to score in 64 minutes.

It cut the Leinster lead to just a point, at 20-19, but Carbery couldn’t nudge them in front, pushing his touchline conversion to the right and wide.

On 67 minutes, Leinster looked destined to extend their advantage when Luke McGrath connected with a brilliant Jamie Osborne offload to sprint up the middle of the Munster defence, and but Calvin Nash covered huge ground to get back and make the tackle, he and Campbell combining to win a jackal penalty under their own posts, and keep their side alive.

Despite their lead being just a point, they never looked like losing in the final 10 minute, managing possession and territory immaculately, and even turning down a simple penalty shot at goal in favor of pushing for a third try.

It didn’t materialise, but it didn’t matter. A fourth Thomond Park win in a row for Leinster, and a 10th win in their last 11 games with Munster reinforcing their dominance of this fixture, even if tonight’s meeting was their closest in years.


Münster: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, Roman Salanoa, Kiran McDonald, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Rory Scannell, Patrick Campbell.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose (capt), Jamie Osborne, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy; Ryan Baird, Joe McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Replacements: John McKee, Michael Milne, Vakhtang Abdaladze, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Harry Byrne, Liam Turner.

Referees: Chris Busby (IRFU).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *