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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 22 October 2020
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Is that a Friday Feeling we’re sensing, or is it just the looming prospect of knockout rugby?

A very welcome along to our coverage of the biggest rugby match for damn near seven months.

It’s Leinster v Munster with a Pro14 final place at stake, but don’t get too excited just yet. Kick off is not until 19.35 (eir Sport) and you don’t want your energy spent before it gets under way.

Enjoy the sun for a few minutes, get the dinner into ya or disconnect the doorbell to make sure nobody can come and disturb you between 19.35 and 22.00.

Here are the teams for tonight’s inter-pro final-four clash. Munster have changed the make-up of their bench with a late tweak. They now have a 6-2 split as Mike Haley – who was not fit for either of the matches since restart – is replaced by Gavin Coombes.

Leinster:

15. Jordan Larmour
14. Hugo Keenan
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Ronan Kelleher
3. Andrew Porter
4. Devin Toner
5. Scott Fardy
6. Caelan Doris
7. Will Connors
8. Jack Conan

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Ed Byrne
18. Michael Bent
19. Ryan Baird
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Rory O’Loughlin

Munster

15. Shane Daly
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Damian de Allende
11. Keith Earls
10. JJ Hanrahan
9. Conor Murray

1. Jeremy Loughman
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. Tadhg Beirne
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Jack O’Donoghue
8. CJ Stander 

Replacements:

16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. James Cronin
18. John Ryan
19. Gavin Coombes
20. Chris Cloete
21. Craig Casey
22. Rory Scannell
23. Fineen Wycherley

Referee: Andrew Brace.

Munster trot out of the tunnel with the piped-in crowd noise greeting them right alongside a commentator noting the ‘eerie silence’.

Then ‘All of the Lights’ blares as Leinster follow them to the field.

KICK-OFF: Sexton kicks off and Peter O’Mahony rises high to take it. Talk about major players getting involved early.

2Mins

The rain around the Aviva has brought an early spill by Jordan Larmour on the ground and you can hear the cheers from Munster players ‘creating their own atmosphere’ to greet the mistake.

5Mins

Larmour may have struggled on the ground, but he’s delivered two brilliant takes in the air. However, after his second CJ Stander and Jack O’Donoghue were only too happy to greet him and get straight in over the ball once he hit the ground.

Penalty chance for Munster.

5Mins

PENALTY! Leinster 0 Munster 3 (Hanrahan ’5)

8Mins

Hanrahan gets to grips with Larmour then after the restart after the penalty is given Leinster’s way. That’d be a well-matched wee scrap.

Leinster kick for the line-out on the 22, but it’s overthrown by Kelleher and Munster can scrum to exit.

10Mins

O’Donoghue penalised in midfield and Sexton will now take on a long-range penalty. Further than the last penalty kicked to the edge.

13Mins

Sexton’s long-range kick drifts across the posts and falls about a foot wide.

The wet ball is playing havoc with Leinster’s rhythm so far. And that’s just fine for Munster. The longer they can keep the home side unsettled the better.

15Mins

Offisde penalty against Leinster then as they defended Munster pick and drives in midfield. Hanrahan goes to the line-out.

18Mins

You may have heard this before, but Johnny Sexton some defender, lads.

The out-half is hit hard by Damian De Allende on the carry and the Springbok backed up by beefy Chris Farrell. Sexton stood and kept himself and the ball up to force a maul and a Leinster scrum. Brilliant stuff from the Ireland and Leinster captain.

20Mins

Another Conor Murray bomb to test Leinster, but James Lowe is there this time to leap and claim cleanly.

The hosts clear their lines, but the penalty comes for Munster as Jack Conan is pinged. Frustrated expressions on all in blue at the minute.

23Mins

Munster appeared to be building a decent set of phases on Leinster’s 22, but it came to an end with a Hanrahan angled grubber. It’s easily dealt with and Hugo Keenan puts in a ferocious hit on Conor Murray as the scrum-half fielded the clearing kick.

26Mins

Even Keith Earls errs with the ball doused in greaae like it is today.

The veteran wing chases back as Sexton aims the kick in the corner behind him, he gets hands on it but lets it slip behind him as he faces his own try-line. Forward.

Blue scrum 10 metres out.

27Mins

Andrew Porter forces the issue at the scrum and ekes out the penalty. From scrum to line-out.

28Mins

Leinster set up a fluid maul. Munster have excellent defence in that area and managed to disrupt them.

The TMO is having a look to see how close Leinster came to the whitewash.

29Mins

Heavy, heavy suspicion of a double movement by Kelleher as he wriggled his way from the base of a maul to the try-line, but the TMO ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision by Andrew Brace.

And, as Sexton nails the touchline conversion, isn’t it just like Leinster to force their way to a four-point lead having been on the back foot for almost half an hour.

Leinster 7 Munster 3

32Mins

A Luke McGrath error gives Munster a platform to attack, but Leinster’s defence ensure they wind up going side to side or backwards until Hanrahan angles a kick to touch.

Beirne wins the line-out to steal possession away from Leinster, but Loughman spills at the base of a ruck and Leinster can take a second go at clearing their lines.

33Mins

Interesting to see Conor Murray getting treatment after that exchange. He of course had a long-standing shoulder/neck issue that hampered his game. Hopefully it doesn’t flare up this side of sport’s shutdown.

38Mins

O’Mahony penalised as he can’t roll away from a solid hit on J-Lowe. Sexton kicks for the corner and Leinster will have a chance to twist the knife a little before the interval.

39Mins

PENALTY! Leinster 10 Munster 3 (Sexton ’39)

The out-half has a long hard think about what option to take after a penalty is awarded directly in front of the posts. He opts for the simple three rather than going for the jugular.

41Mins

The Second Half is off and running and Leinster have started bright.

An attack down the right brought a close run thing for James Lowe as he chased a Ringrose grubber.

45Mins

Jordan Larmour took an awful bang on the head there as he and Hanrahan chased a loose ball. Rory O’Loughlin is in the game

51Mins

Plenty of niggle in this game, lots of moaning at the ref. Squabbles never far from the surface.

Leinster are slowly but surely tightening their grip on the match. A cross-field kick finds Lowe and they can mount an attack.

Then Scott Fardy blasts his way to the side of a ruck to make my last sentence look stupid and Hanrahan can kick Munster towards halfway.

That’s Fardy’s last act, as it happened, Ryan Baird is sent into the fold.

53Mins

Ebbs and flows. Munster win a penalty on the 22 off a box kick and they can set up a four-point gam… and just like that it’s taken away again.

TMO has a second look at the challenge in the air on Lowe and the coming together means a clearing penalty for the hosts.

Neither side can string a solid period of pressure together. Knock-ons and penalties are sucking the momentum out of the match as a whole.

It’s a drab affair, in truth. Call it a gripping chess match if you must, but it’s error-ridden.

59Mins

Huge turnover penalty from Tadhg Beirne right when his team, and the game, needed it. Ringrose attempted the cut, but he was well wrapped up and Beirne has ensured Hanrahan is within range.

60Mins

Well, well well. That is a poor effort from Hanrahan. He was placed on the right side, but his kick stayed well right of the posts.

Another let-off for Leinster.

62Mins

Scrum coming Leinster’s way after Hanrahan knocks on a high ball, Murray steps in to shield the jumper and gets a big bump from Andrew Porter for his trouble.

The TMO reviews it with an eye on Porter and rules that it’s a penalty against the prop.

Back and forth the pendulum swings.

63Mins

De Allende is still driving at Sexton and it’s paying off. The 10 couldn’t hold the Springbok up this time and his tackle rode up towards the neck. Penalty. And it’s kickable again for Hanrahan.

64Mins

That one was a howler and there’s no way to dress it up.

Far more central than the previous miss, we had it marked on the scoreboard, but Hanrahan blazed his penalty right and wide of the target from 30 metres.

66Mins

More scrappy ball, but class players from either end of the age spectrum try to make it work.Sexton jinks and weaves his way towards the touchline and slips a pass away for Baird to rampage onto.

It’s just a snippet and doesn’t directly lead to a break. But Leinster’s next wave on the right brings a penalty on the edge of the 22.

Will Sexton land the punishing blow?

68Mins

PENALTY! Leinster 13 Munster 3 (Sexton ’68)

Of course he does. And then he trots off the field to make way for Ross Byrne.

With time running out for Munster, Sexton must surely be prepping for the final from here.

71Mins

Munster’s tempo in attack has been cranked all the way up. Suddenly they veer away from box kick and hard yards and spin it wide for Farrell to make inroads in the wide channels.

Oddly, with the game still within reach, Munster have called Conor Murray ashore and replaced him with Craig Casey. Perhaps it’s down to a knock. Otherwise, as good as Casey is, it’s a strange call.

73Mins

Swings. And. Roundabouts.

Cloete comes up with a big steal to force a Munster penalty. Scannell kicks down the line. The Munster line-out is lost.

It’s been an evening crammed full of such fits and starts.

75Mins

O’Mahony now wins a penalty at the breakdown to give Munster a great attacking platform in the 22.

The maul is set and penalty is coming, but they look to go wide and move the ball fast. Leinster are happy enough to rack up the penalties at this stage.

Josh van der Flier is on in place of Will Connors.

76Mins

JVDF is off just as quick as he came on. He gets a yellow card after a hit in front of the posts.

Munster can attack 14 men for the rest of this match.

78Mins

There’s the cheers from the men in blue. They force a knock-on as Munster mounted a set of pick and drives and they will clear their lines and have two minutes between them and the final.

78Mins

Scratch that, Leinster won’t bother clearing their lines. They’ve enough confidence in their scrum to pack down on their own five metre line and eat the clock.

80Mins

It didn’t quite go according to plan as Lowe kicks a raking clearance, but Leinster’s defence hammers up in a flash and Munster have nowhere to go, so Casey’s pass is under pressure and he winds up finding Cloete in touch.

A horrible game to watch as a neutral, a worse one to lose for Munster.

Reigning champions and unbeaten, Leinster plough on to the final.

That’s it from me for this evening. We’ll have lots more reaction from the Aviva. And tomorrow, Ulster will bid to make it an all-Irish final when they pitch up for battle in Edinburgh.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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