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Leinster spoil Munster’s festive spirit with emphatic victory

Guinness Pro 12 League:
Munster 7, Leinster 24
THE weather conditions and the setting were almost perfect for tonight’s Guinness Pro 12 derby game between these two giants of European rugby and they served up a cracker of a game before a sell-out attendance of 25,600. Joe Schmidt was an interested spectator but he will be concerned about Keith Earl’s34th minute injury in view of the forthcoming Six Nations Championship.
The scoreboard told a sad story for the home supporters and one wonders why Munster did not go for the posts late in the game, an opportunity which may have given them a losing bonus point. As it happened, Leinster struck again at the death when a late Christmas gift was gleefully accepted by the blues to seal an emphatic victory.
With Leinster leading by three points at the break, the second period saw the tempo and the intensity rise. Leinster withstood some early Munster pressure, two five metre lineouts coming to nought, and they paid the price. Leinster worked the ball patiently downfield, Madigan placed a sweet crossfield ball into the hands of Isa Nacewa and the pack did the rest, Jack McGrath powering over near the posts and Madigan landing the conversion for a 17-7 lead.
Foley rang the changes with Tommy O’Donnell coming on for his first piece of action since his hip injury and Duncan Williams replacing Tomas O’Leary at scrum-half. The reds responded with some intense assaults on the Leinster line but, as has been the story of their season so far, they just could not turn good possession into scores. Saili was held up a metre out.
With the home attacking continuing to breakdown because of a lack of cohesion, players running into the tackle with little support and no gaps being created, Leinster had the final say, Francis Saili placing his pass into the hands of full-back Zane Kirchner who pinned back his ears and hared all the way to the try line 80 metres away at the Mayorstone. It was the final blow for the reds on a night when Heineken Cup successes seemed in the distant past.
Leinster struck first and early. Heaslip forced a turnover near the home 22, Reddan spread the ball wide on the right and Gary Ringrose showed wheels, tearing through the Munster defence before offloading to the supporting Isa Nacewa for a great try which was converted by Ian Madigan. Munster responded, were reward with a penalty under the posts but Rory Scannell’s left footer went wide of the post.
The clash of CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip was becoming a feature of this game with a couple of robust collisions but with the Leinster pack enjoying the better of the maul, they increased their lead to 10-0 on 14 minutes when Ian Madigan kicking a difficult from far out on the right hand side.
With Ringrose looking threatening at every touch, the tide was flowing in favour of the blues as the first quarter passed. The nearest Munster got to a try was on 34 minutes when Keith Earls stepped inside a tackle to open up the Leinster defence but the ball was held up on the line. Earls suffered a nasty injury which saw him stretchered off.
Three minutes before halftime Munster were rewarded for a series of onslaughts on the visitors’ line when Robin Copeland dived over close to the posts and Rory Scannell added the extra to points. Dave Kilcoyne continued to impress after replacing the injured James Cronin and the sides went in at the break with Leinster leading 10-7.
Munster: A Conway; K Earls, F Saili, D Hurley, S Zebo;Tyler Bleyendaal, C Murray;J Cronin, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D Foley, D Ryan;R Copeland, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander. Replacements, N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, B Holland, B O’Donnell, T O’Leary, R Scannell, L Gonzales Amorosino.
Leinster: Z Kirchner; F McFadden, G Ringrose, L Fitzgerald, I Nacewa; I Madigan, E Reddan;J McGrath, S Cronin, T Furlong;D Toner, T Denton; D Ryan, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Replacements, J Tracy, C Healy, M Moore, R Moloney, J van der Flier, N McCarthy, C Marsh, D Kearney.
Referee, D Wilkinson, IRFU.

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