REPORT: Munster 24 Leinster 34
REPORT: Munster 24 Leinster 34
December 26, 2017 / Dave Mervyn
Jordan Larmour’s scintillating 60-metre effort was the decisive score of an epic eight-try GUINNESS PRO14 derby at Thomond Park where Leinster lowered the colours of Munster on a 34-24 scoreline.
The prodigious 20-year-old full-back, playing in his first festive Interprovincial derby, lit up the occasion with a superb sidestepping run that took his past three Munster players and he had enough strength to ground the ball under pressure from the covering Simon Zebo.
The youngster’s 69th-minute bonus point score broke up what had been a stirring second half fight-back from Munster, who had appeared to be suffering from a Christmas hangover when tries from man-of-the-match Dan Leavy and Robbie Henshaw, coupled with a penalty try and Ross Byrne’s 10-point kicking haul, gave Leinster a 27-5 half-time lead.
The capacity crowd of 26,267 – a PRO14 record at at the Limerick venue – roared its approval as tries from Ian Keatley (45 minutes) and Andrew Conway (48), adding to Conor Murray’s first half effort, had Munster right back in contention at 27-19. However, Larmour consigned the men in red to their first home defeat since last February before Conway’s second try earned Munster a battling bonus point.
Leinster deserved the full points on foot of an excellent first half display, in which Leavy and James Ryan were the dominant figures up front. It looked like Johann van Graan’s decision to make only four changes to the Munster team that won at Leicester last week had backfired as freshened-up Leinster, who only retained Henshaw, Devin Toner and Jack Conan from their European exploits, sprinted ahead early on.
It was ultimately only two changes for Munster as Keith Earls and Rhys Marshall were both late withdrawals, and the hosts started on the back foot as Leavy force a penalty at the very first breakdown. Out-half Byrne swung over a well-struck kick from the right for the opening points inside two minutes.
Like Leavy, Conway was also heavily involved in the early exchanges, testing out Barry Daly’s defence in the Leinster 22. However, the visitors built a 13-0 lead in as many minutes.
James Lowe, making his first appearance on Irish soil, and Larmour injected pace in a free-flowing break from halfway, and with space on the opposite wing, Byrne’s cross-field kick gave Leavy a simple run-in for his eighth-minute try.
The increasingly-influential Leinster number 10 added a terrific conversion from out wide and then nailed a penalty from the 10-metre line as Munster, who were hoping to win on the occasion of captain Peter O’Mahony’s 100th appearance, continued to struggle with their discipline and kick transition.
Van Graan’s charges did manage to free up Alex Wootton along the left touchline and with further momentum from a penalty and clever maul move in the 17th minute, Murray dived over in the left corner for a much-needed five-pointer.
A try of the season contender from Jordan Lamour?!
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) December 26, 2017
However, Munster entered the second quarter 20-5 down and with full-back Conway in the sin-bin. His early tackle on Lowe, as the pair chased a Larmour kick up to the Munster try-line, saw referee Nigel Owens award a penalty try, having consulted with TMO Simon McDowell.
It got even worse for O’Mahony and his team-mates in the 22nd minute as they allowed Rory O’Loughlin to counter brilliantly from deep and link with the supporting Daly whose pass out of a tackle sent Henshaw over to the right of the posts.
Munster’s first half woes were summed by two overcooked kicks from Keatley and Sam Arnold, either side of a Leinster choke tackle that highlighted the dominance of their pack in open play.
But the tables were very much turned on the resumption, with the odd sight of Murray winning his second lineout of the game before his half-back Keatley sniped over for a galvanising try which he converted himself.
Suddenly, the momentum was all with Munster as Keatley converted and then added the extras to a classy score from Conway who cut inside the otherwise impressive Larmour and finished smartly past Daly, the final defender, wide on the right.
A breathless and frenzied passage of play saw both defences come under waves of pressure, with Munster prop Stephen Archer even getting a rare chance to stretch his legs in open territory. Leavy stepped up for the visitors, winning a crucial turnover penalty in his 22 and Larmour took centre stage two minutes later.
The Dubliner’s pace and blinding footwork – seen also in Interpro action against Ulster this season – carved open the Munster defence on a kick return and the resulting try gave Leinster the necessary breathing space, with Byrne’s conversion making it 34-19.
The visitors’ bench, which included Tadhg Furlong and Josh van der Flier, helped them seal their second season’s double over Munster in three years, while Conway’s well-taken 76th-minute try at least ensured Munster had something to show for their frenetic comeback after half-time.
Join the roar at the RDS Arena on New Year’s Day! Tickets for Leinster v Connacht are still available.