Match report: Munster Rugby 10 Leinster Rugby 13
Match report: Munster Rugby 10 Leinster Rugby 13
January 23, 2021 / Ryan Corry
It took a a 68th-minute try from Jordan Larmour to drive Leinster Rugby to within a point of Ulster at the head of Guinness PRO14’s Conference A.
Going to Thomond Park to face old rivals Munster, it took a resilient performance from the holders who found themselves 10-0 down after just over 12 minutes.
Munster had not been defeated yet at the Limerick venue this season.
They had every right to be confident, putting the ball into the hands of Damian De Allende and Keith Earls in a sign of their intent before Larmour forced a spill out of Gavin Coombes.
Leinster’s Luke McGrath looked for Robbie Henshaw to get over the gain line and McGrath tested Mike Haley out in the air.
The home side opted to carry strong either side of a garryowen from Conor Murray, Rhys Ruddock ending up on the wrong side of a ruck for JJ Hanrahan to open Munster’s account with three points from distance.
Peter O’Mahony’s sure hands controlled Johnny Sexton’s restart and Murray’s bomb just escaped Larmour’s clutches for a scrum on halfway.
The southern province struck a psychological blow when their scrum powered up a penalty and Hanrahan flighted his kick well inside the 22.
O’Mahony’s take and Murray’s burst took play to within five metres. They were methodical from there, Tadhg Beirne driving over from 13 patient phases for Hanrahan’s conversion to make it a 10-point game in the 12th minute.
Leinster were having problems securing possession as Munster moved the ball left and right across the pitch, Beirne eventually dropping Murray’s pass.
It took Henshaw’s grab of Sexton’s high ball to provide a glimmer of positivity only for Shane Daly to lash the ball 70 metres for more Munster territory.
Leinster calmly exited through Seán Cronin’s throw, James Ryan’s fetch and McGrath’s angled ball away.
Then, Ryan got his left paw to Rhys Marshall’s throw and Cronin grasped the next one when Marshall went too long.
A high tackle by O’Mahony on Will Connors invited pressure from a penalty, Garry Ringrose knifing into space for Leinster’s first serious attack until O’Mahony reached over a ruck for a turnover.
The Blues kept the foot down, McGrath and Sexton orchestrating an attack with Henshaw and Hugo Keenan also involved, James Cronin killing the ball for Sexton to strike a penalty from close range in the 26th minute.
Out-half Sexton was beginning to control the ebb and flow with a varied distribution, another teasing kick drawing a mistake out of Haley.
The lightning feet of Larmour bamboozled James Cronin and a grubber in behind was just about defused by Earls for the concession of a five-metre scrum.
Leinster churned a penalty out of that engagement. Sexton went for the corner and then the out-half rescued a lost lineout.
The penalties were accruing for Leinster and Ryan’s low drive went close before hooker Marshall snatched a crucial turnover right on the line.
When Caelan Doris was too slow to peel away from a Munster ruck, Hanrahan’s long-range penalty rebounded off the left upright.
By that time, the clock was in the red. Even so, Leinster were positive, Sexton’s decisions driving the cause.
Their pro-active response was rewarded when prop Cronin was penalised for not releasing in the tackle.
Sexton smacked a penalty from 40 metres for 10-6 at the break in what was a six-point turnaround.
Munster moved to turn the screw again, Larmour not quite judging an up-and-under and James Cronin recovering another Murray bomb.
Connors and Andrew Porter took De Allende behind the gain line and Scott Fardy had to wrestle Coombes to the floor.
It was attritional action, muscle-on-muscle, Porter eventually whistled for illegal work at a ruck. But, Hanrahan leaked a kick right of the posts.
Munster were quicker to react to a loose ball from another steepling Murray kick, requiring Ryan to pick off a second lineout against the throw.
A period of break-even rugby was punctuated by Porter’s indiscretion at a ruck, Fardy’s poach at a breakdown and a miracle turnover by Murray, swiping the ball away from Ringrose.
The impact of Larmour came from another grubber to force a five-metre scrum out of Haley due to the vigilance of McGrath and Keenan.
Just when they finally looked like breaching the red line, Beirne came up with a steal.
Then, Leinster came raiding up the left from fine passing and Jimmy O’Brien’s ball through on the floor.
Yet again, Murray’s kicking caused problems, McGrath relieving the pressure from deep when Earls almost snagged the scrum-half.
The ball was spending more time in the air, Haley sending an impressive kick tumbling to the left corner.
It took the football intelligence of Fardy to force a penalty. McGrath took the tap-and-go. Keenan made serious ground up the left in what was a much-needed counter.
It gave Leinster the territory they could not hold onto, Ringrose’s chip drifting into touch on the full.
A surge from McGrath and offside by Fineen Wycherley allowed Ross Byrne, on for Sexton, to establish an attacking position for Leinster.
Rónan Kelleher’s pin-point toss to Ryan at the tail was the trigger for McGrath to release Henshaw up the middle.
The recycle was smartly executed, Josh van der Flier going out the back to Byrne, whose bobbling ball was clutched by Keenan and offloaded for Larmour to dance inside Earls for a stunning try.
Byrne converted immaculately from the touchline for Leinster to hit the front 13-10 for the first time.
Munster went straight back to their direct approach, varying the attack well until Beirne couldn’t hold onto the ball.
McGrath was cool-headed in possession and Keenan gathered Craig Casey’s testing kick. However, not for the first time, Haley banged the ball well inside the 22 where Leinster’s lineout held firm.
De Allende stepped out of van der Flier’s ankle-tackle only for the centre to drop a pass on his next involvement just when Munster threatened in the wide channel.
Leinster had to survive one last scrum, the front-five locking it out, and McGrath kicking the ball out to claim a hard-fought victory.