Another chapter was added to a Leinster versus Munster tale of rivalry, success and grudging respect.
Joe Schmidt’s side welcomed Rob Penney’s men to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for an occasion that crackled with passion and skill.
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Leinster 30-21 Munster
17.59 – Welcome along to our live coverage of Leinster’s RaboDirect PRO12 home tie against Munster at Lansdowne Road. Still a long way from filling up here at the ground but let’s get you up to speed with proceedings.
First off, here are some preview and tone-setting pieces we crafted on your behalf in the lead-up to the big game.
18.02 – Here is what happened when the sides last met at the Aviva in November 2011. For many players on both sides it was their first game back after the World Cup in New Zealand.
YouTube credit: LeinsterrugbyTV
18.07 – We’ve had an open thread up and running since this morning, asking for your take on this evening’s encounter. Here is a small sample of the comments we have received so far:
18.10 – Jerry Flannery is here for TG4 and, by hokey, he is wearing a superb grey Mackintosh.
Return of the Mack:: Jerry Flannery pitchside at the Aviva.
18.17 – Here are your line-ups:
Leinster: I Madigan; A Conway, B O’Driscoll, F McFadden, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip (c).
Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, T Denton, J Murphy, J Cooney, N Reid, F Carr.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett capt, K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, P O’Mahony.
Replacements: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, I Keatley, J Downey.
18.25 – 10 minutes away from kick-off and the stadium is slowly starting to fill up. I’ve got to agree with Brian Grady (down in our comments section), that Mackintosh is fairly wrapped onto Jerry Flannery.
18.32 – We are off!
18.34 – Munster on the back foot already as O’Mahony is forced to touch down behind his own line after an intelligent grubber kick. Scrum Leinster.
18.36 – TMO! are Leinster under the posts? Looks like it.
18.39 – Super stuff in the build up by McFadden s he reserves the attack and almost gets Conway in. Reddan keeps the play ticking and Richardt Strauss, on the charge, manages to squirm through and touch down for a TRY. He was on his back as he touched it down. Sexton with the easy conversion. Super start for Leinster.
18.42 – TRY for Munster! Madigan tries to run it out of attack but is caught by Laulala. Reddan’s recovering kick isn’t far enough and Earls bursts free. Play is spread from right to left and Sherry does well to connect with Zebo, who manages to offload on his knees to a supporting O’Mahony. No douby about it. Fantastic response.
O’Gara misses a tough conversion from the left touchline.
18.44 – Munster barrel forward again and have an advantage. O’Gara skews a drop goal attempt but it will come back for the penalty. On the ’22 and just to the right. He gets it. Munster lead 8-7 after 10 minutes.
18.47 – O’Mahony and Howlett get a talking to by the ref and Sexton will have a penalty kick from 45 metres out. Looks like Kevin McLaughlin’s evening is over already as he walks off holding his right wrist. Jordi Murphy comes on. Sexton lands the kick to make it Leinster 10-8 Munster.
18.50 – Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Leinster give away a silly penalty at the breakdown. O’Gara takes a DG attempt but it goes wide. Play goes back for the penalty, in almost the same osition, and the Corkman nails it. Leinster 10-11 Munster after 14 minutes. Phew!
18.52 – Almost immeditely from the restart Munster get pinged at the ruck. Sexton can’t make them pay though as his kick hits the left-hand post.
18.55 – Sexton tries a crossfield kick that Zebo gathers but the ref deems it to be out on the full. They win their line-out and Murray box kicks clear. Andrew Conway scythes back and gets Leinster on the attack again.
18.57 – TRY! Ian Madigan does superbly to step inside Laulala and dive over with O’Gara wrapped around his ankles. Richardt Strauss was immense in the build-up to that score and nearly went over for a second try.
Sexton gets his conversion between the sticks and it is Leinster 17-11 Munster with 24 minutes gone. A couple of words of praise for Reddan and Strauss in the lead-up to that Madigan try. One was an absolute bull and the other had Munster chasing shadows.
Three tries and five lead changes so far. There’s no pleasing some folks.
19.06 – The Munster scrum buckle backwards after a short stoppage for injury treatment. Sexton’s penalty from 45 metres out drops just shy of the crossbar and the lead remains six points after 29 minutes.
19.09 – Mike Ross gets the plaudits as Leinster win another penalty at the scrum. Dave Kilcoyne got himself into some trouble there. Sexton makes it Leinster 20-11 Munster with a 30 metre kick slightly to the right of the posts. He is 4/6 in placed kicks so far.
19.12 – O’Mahony wins a battering ram joust with Heaslip but Munster are going left and right without any real progress. They get rewarded for holding on to possession though as Strauss is penalised for going off his feet. This has been symptomatic of Leinster’s early season play – too many needless penalties. H20 man Gordon D’Arcy scratches his thick mane on the sidelines as O’Gara slots his kick over and makes it Leinster 20-14 Munster.
19.15 – O’Mahony does well in the offload down the left and Howlett backs himself for a dart through the three-man Leinster screen but Heaslip and co. manhandle him out of play. The Blues just about win the line-out and Madigan attacks up the wing but spills possession after he is tackled low by Zebo.
Important scrum coming up.
19.18 – ‘Watch the arm’ Murray motions to the touch official after Ross puts Kilcoyne in the turf again. A reset for the scrum and Munster get it in and out without incident this time. HALF-TIME here at the Aviva and Leinster lead by six points.
I have literally never seen this craic before at a game. Robert has proposed to Ruth down on the pitch! He nearly blew it as he started crying but he got the words out. Well done sir!!
Simon Zebo finds Peter O’Mahony for his first-half try. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
19.29 – What do you all make of that so far? Leinster are looking dangerous in attack but equally dangerous in defence. Munster trying to run the ball whenever they get the chance but some trouble at scrum-time.
19.31 – The second half is underway. Munster kick off. Jennings takes it into contact and wins a penalty for his side. Sexton finds touch just beyond the halfway line.
19.35 – Conway looks very lively for Leinster and he is seeing a lot of the ball. Strauss bursts up the centre again but the ball is knocked on so it will be a Munster scrum on their ’22. Much more solid and the ball is leathered upfield and back. Nacewa tries to ‘Rob Kearney’ and O’Gara up-and-under but knocks it on.
19.40 – The Aviva pitch is cutting up badly and two patches look trench-like already. More Leinster indiscipline and play is eventually called back for O’Gara to flirt with the posts. He steps up and heaves one off the right-hand post. Leinster nearly make a right mess of running the ball out of their ’22 but eventually clear. O’Driscoll then puts in a huge defensive hit on Howlett to get the home crowd going.
Nice chip up the line and Zebo is forced to kick it out of play. Leinster lineout and Holland replaces Donncha O’Callaghan. 48 minutes gone here.
Ryan in from the side and Sexton will get the chance to extend the Leinster lead from out near the left touchline. Marvellous kick that bends in and over at the last moment. Leinster 23-14 Munster with Varley coming on for Sherry.
19.45 – Brave stuff from both Murray and Nacewa as they spectacularly clash mid-air in pursuit of an O’Driscoll grubber kick. McFadden and Strauss power up the middle and plays hurtles to the left wing where Madigan superbly finds O’Driscoll. TMO…
19.48 – TRY! Never really in doubt as O’Driscoll was strong there and did enough to touch it down under desperate flailing from Hurley. Sexton lands a super conversion from the left again and it is Leinster 30-14 Munster
19.51 – There was also a yellow card for sub Damien Varley amid that great Leinster play, and try. Rob Penney will be fuming about that. The scoreboard at the Aviva read 31-14, then 26-14 but they got there eventually. 30-14 after 56 minutes.
19.55 – Richard Strauss gets a cheer-filled ovation from the Leinster fans as he is replaced by Cronin. He could have man-of-the-match wrapped up already. McFadden chose to go it alone wide on the left when he may have been wiser to offload a quick pass to the flying Fionn Carr (on for Nacewa).
19.57 – O’Gara comes off for Keatley with 20 minutes left on the clock. His kicking has been reasonable but he was shown up in defence by McFadden moments before that O’Driscoll try.
Magpie watch: The winged creature continues to risk its feathered life by hanging out on the halfway line.
20.00 – I liked the looks of Laulala when I saw him live at Ravenhill a few weeks’ back but he has looked a bit one-dimensional this evening. He flings a sloppy pass that is subsequently knocked forward. O’Driscoll comes off for Reid and play is now held up for Conway to get some treatment.
20.04 – Conway is taken off on a stretcher after getting the full force of a Simon Zebo thigh muscle in the face. In relation to the less than perfect pitch, Newstalk’s Simon Hick has just tweeted this:
20.08 – Munster steal the ball from a rolling Leinster maul and Murray sets up O’Mahony but it is just short. The visitors set up a ruck and Murray dives up the unguarded blindside for a TRY in the left-hand corner. Keatley from out on the left touchline strikes a beauty to make it Leinster 30-21 Munster with 13 minutes left on the clock.
20.10 – Good work from du Preez and Ryan at the breakdown wins a scrum for Munster as Keatley urges a concerted effort.
O’Mahony has been fantastic for Munster tonight and wins his side a penalty as the tackler does not release him. They are just outside the Leinster ’22 now/ Nine minutes to go as Munster maul forward into the danger zone. Plays goes wide left but Hurley, under extreme pressure from Madigan, can’t flip his pass to Earls and Leinster survive.
20.16 – Munster win a penalty but opt to go for the attacking lineout. Great effort as Keatley finds Earls but a try-scoring pass is deemed to have popped up and spun forward. Laulala touched down but it will not count. Controversial call there.
20.18 – Leinster have been here so many times in the last four seasons and they are wisely holding up play and getting scrums re-set. The clock is winding down. Four minutes remaining and Munster will need something huge to go in their favour soon.
20.20 – Dougall and Downey trying to spark Munster but Jordi Murphy puts in a great tackle on Ryan to halt any momentum. The ball is spilled forward so Leinster will have the scrum. Looks like Joe Schmidt’s men will take this one.
20.22 – Eoin Reddan and John Cooney almost combine to get a super try on the break but the bounce of the chipped ball goes against Cooney. Reddan has been announced as the official man-of-the-match. I wouldn’t argue too loudly with that.
20.24 – Earls gives it one last dash up the wing but it comes to nought and the final whistle is blown soon after. FULL-TIME. Stay with us for match reaction and comments.