The Pro14 returned on Friday, and the first of the Irish derbies of the weekend saw Leinster host Munster at the Aviva. It was a strange atmosphere with no fans in attendance, but that did not lead to a reduced level of intensity.
Plenty of positives to take away for Munster, including their bright start with Andrew Conway touching down in the 12th minute. New signing De Allande had almost got over, Munster eventually touched down after 17 phases. Hanrahan added the extras.
However Munster suffered two injury setbacks. New signing RG Snyman looks to have picked up a serious knee injury, with Dave Kilcoyne also going off early.
Leinster hit back off a lineout, with Healy going over from a maul in the boys in blue’s first visit to the 22. It’s notable Leinster successfully scored off a lineout after Snyman went off. Sexton converted.
Hanrahan and Sexton exchanged penalties before Munster got their noses in front with 5 minutes left in the half. JJ kicked another penalty. However Leinster struck with the clock in red. Henshaw chipped through to Ringrose. Sexton converted to send Leinster in 17 – 13 ahead. Munster could feel aggrieved to go in behind having had most of the attacking play.
James Lowe scored what proved to be a decisive try after a move started by Johnny Sexton. Off a scrum Ringrose recycled the ball to Sexton who played it to Ryan Baird, the 2nd row making only his 3rd start. Baird found Lowe on the wing, and the man who will soon be eligible to play in green found his way to the line.
A yellow card for Devin Toner gave Munster a route back into the game. Keith Earls produced a stunning finish right on the line to peg Leinster back. Hanrahan kicked a difficult conversion from out wide. With 15 minutes to go there were 4 points in it.
Ross Byrne edged Leinster further in front with 10 minutes to go. Leinster were now a converted try ahead. We would be in for a grand stand finish. Leinster were too narrow and Munster found Conway out wide quickly, who had enough to get over. Hanraham’s conversion effort from outwide crucially was off target.
Leinster saw it out, with Munster opting to kick the ball out when they were deep in their half, likely not wanting to fail to retain a losing bonus point.
The Leinster captain spoke after the game.
As said above, plenty of positives for Munster. CJ Stander was a turnover machine, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway always looked dangerous, and Chris Farrell, who was awarded man of the match, showed Ireland have center options outside of Ringrose and Henshaw.
Leinster continue their winning ways. It’s now 22 wins in a row in all competitions. Right now Leo Cullen’s men don’t just look like a team used to winning, they look like a team who insist on it.
Leinster face Ulster next week. Having put up a good showing in the RDS earlier in the season, Ulster won’t fear Leinster, and will know if they target the wide areas they can cause problems. First up Ulster will play Connacht.
Munster will now likely finish 2nd in conference B, behind Edinburgh. That means they will face Leinster in the semi-finals on Friday 4th September. Although they are not guaranteed a semi-final place, with Scarlets lurking 4 points behind. The other semi-final will see Ulster take on Edinburgh.
We’ll have a write-up of Connacht v Ulster tomorrow.