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Munster fail to navigate the flowing blue tide in Thomond thriller

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Munster 24, Leinster 34
IF ever there was a game of two halves, this was it. Leinster dominated the opening half but Munster came back well in the second half and reduced the lead to eight points. A spectacular try from Jordan Larmour, converted by Ross Byrne ensured the win for Leinster late in the second period.
Munster’s first half performance was poor by their standards in Thomond Park and Leinster looked completely comfortable from the start but the target of 23 points in 40 second half minutes and keeping the opposition scoreless was a huge ask for the reds. They lost two attacking lineouts after the break but eventually got a deserved score when Ian Keatley got over and also added the conversion to reduce the lead to 12-27. On 48 minutes the lead was cut to 19-27, Andrew Conway searing over near the corner and Keatley’s conversion bringing the score to 19-27 with 49 minutes played. Aided by the wind, Keatley kept putting the ball behind the blue defence and Zebo, Wooton and Conway were playing like sevens players.
As players tired and the benches were emptied, Leinster enjoyed a good bit of possession but conceded a penalty from which Munster got good position but the Leinster defence stood firm. Then Murray launched a speculative kick into the Leinster 22, full-back Jordan Leymour fielded easily and ran the 75 metre distance to the Munster line with Byrne adding the conversion. Munster finished with a late try from Andrew Conway but with only four minutes remaining this game was already lost. The reds finished on the attack but they failed bridge that ten point difference.
In a frenetic start, Leinster got their noses in front after one minute and forty seconds. Byrne changed direction with the kick-off, Alex Wooton was whistled for holding on and Ross Byrne’s kick split the posts at the Mayorstone end. Leinster increased their lead on 8 minutes. A flowing move down the left flank opened up the Munster cover and Dan Leavy got on the end of a clever crosss-kick from Byrne to touchdown down unopposed. Ross Byrne kicked the difficult conversion for a 10-0 lead. Byrne kicked another penalty but Munster continued to try their luck with a series of kick and chase tactics. The blues were well prepared when it came to dealing with an aerial onslaught.
Nigel Owens was winning little favour from the home crowd as the penalty tally mounted in favour of the visitors but when a fluent move involving Wooton and Murray set up a lineout and drive, Conor Murray crashed over for a try on 18 minutes, Ian Keatley’s conversion missing the target.
Andrew Conway was the recipient of a yellow card two minutes later and the referee had no option but to award a penalty try to Leinster as Leinster roared into a 20-5 lead. The home defence was split open once again on 24 minutes, Rob Henshaw getting on the end of another flowing backline move and Byrne again accurate with the conversion.
Trailing 5-27 15 mimutes before the break, Munster needed leadership but it was difficult to see where it was to come from at this stage. Jean Klein was held up inside his own 22 as Leinster staged another assault on the red line but a big drive at put-in at last lifted the home crowd. Munster continued to live off scraps and lucky breaks and they badly needed a score before the half time whistle. They won a penalty at a scrum but Keatley failed to find a bread and butter touch with the kick. Munster got a late lifeline to snatch something deep into injury time but Arnold’s kick through went into touch. Half time, Munster 5, Leinstetr 27
Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wooton; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (c), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: Niall Scannell, James Cronin, John Ryan, Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Simon Zebo.
Leinster Rugby: Jordan Larmour, Barry Daly, Rory O’Loughlin, Rob Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Jack McGrath, c, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Jordi Murphy, Dan Leavy, Jack Conan. Replacements, 16. Richardt Strauss, 17. Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Mick Kearney, Josh van der Flier, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Noel Reid.
Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

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