Dan Sheridan/INPHO Leinster celebrate Dan Sheehan scoring their second try.
# Derby
Second half surge sees Leinster edge Munster in thriller at Thomond
Leinster secured the win thanks to two quick-fire tries from Scott Penny and Dan Sheehan.

Munster 19

Leinster 20

LEINSTER TOOK THE spoils from a brilliant Christmas URC interpro derby at Thomond Park thanks to a clinical 10-minute spell in the second half, where the visitors struck for two tries while playing with 14 men.

A Leinster win has become the expected result from this matchup in recent years but this was a well-contested, hugely entertaining encounter in front of a full house in Limerick.

As usual, Munster showed plenty of fight and dug deep to produce some massive moments in defence, but head coach Graham Rowntree will also have been encouraged to see his side continue to show signs of progress with their attacking game – even if they came out on the wrong side of the result.

Leinster were on the ropes at times but landed the telling blows with two second-half tries from Scott Penny and Dan Sheehan which saw them continue their winning start to the season – that’s now 12 wins on the bounce across the URC and Champions Cup – with little to suggest they are going to let up anytime soon.

jamie-osborne-is-tackled-by-antoine-frisch Dan Sheridan / INPHO Leinster’s Jamie Osborne is tackled by Antoine Frisch of Munster. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

With Munster heading into this game on the back of a strong run of performances, the hope was that the bumper crowd would be treated to a cracker under the Thomond Park lights and for the full 80 minutes, they got just that.

The opening quarter was fast and furious, the only points coming via two Ross Byrne penalties – the first arriving after just 90 seconds, the second just before the 20 minute mark after Conor Murray was caught on the wrong side of the ruck.

In between, Munster displayed plenty of promise with little return.

With over 25,000 in attendance, the atmosphere was electric before a ball had been kicked and the game didn’t take long to ignite.

Within a couple of minutes, shortly after Byrne had kicked Leinster into the lead, the home crowd were on referee Chris Busby’s back after Ryan Baird cracked into Joey Carbery’s ribs.

Little flashpoints like that one kept the crowd engaged and enraged. A coming together between Max Deegan and Peter O’Mahony ended up with the Munster captain tumbling onto the floor, via a little help from Andrew Porter.

Another loud roar greeted Jack Crowley winning a big turnover penalty over Jamie Osborne. 

Crowley was heavily involved in those opening exchanges, linking up nicely with Carbery and the equally lively Antoine Frisch again.

As in Northampton last weekend, Munster looked sharp in attack and moved the ball nicely through the hands. The frustration was that nearly every venture into the Leinster half ended with Busby signalling for a Leinster penalty.

peter-omahony-accidentally-collides-with-teammate-dave-kilcoyne Dan Sheridan / INPHO Munster’s Peter O’Mahony accidentally collides with teammate Dave Kilcoyne. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Their first real chance of putting points on the board came shortly after Byrne had kicked Leinster’s second penalty – the visitors penalised for wheeling the scrum – but Carbery was off target from the tee.

At the other end of the pitch, it took another big turnover from O’Mahony to prevent Leinster from further capitalising on Carbery’s miss.

Then the moment finally arrived for Rowntree’s side; although it started with Munster almost butchering another opportunity inside the Leinster 22. From an overthrown pass off the back of a shaky lineout, Frisch recovered well before Niall Scannell broke free to get his team deep into Leinster territory, the visitors initially scrambling well before conceding a penalty.

Munster went for the tap and go, and after hurtling into a few dead ends Gavin Coombes eventually squeezed over – his sixth try in nine games this season – with Carbery adding the extras after a quick TMO check.

Leinster, who had put together some nice attacking passages themselves, now looked a little shaken. Nick McCarthy knocked-on a high ball under pressure from Keith Earls. James Lowe – something of a pantomime villain in these parts – kicked out on the full.

Munster lived dangerously too. Earls saw an attempted chip in behind blocked by Hugo Keenan, the Leinster fullback then losing the resulting footrace with Carbery.

hugo-keenan-and-joey-carbery Bryan Keane / INPHO Leinster's Hugo Keenan and Joey Carbery of Munster. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Leinster had a late chance to retake the lead heading into the break after O’Mahony was pinged, but from 40 meters out Byrne couldn’t hit the target.

The teams went in with Munster leading by the minimum. Could they keep Leinster at bay across the second 40? Initially, it looked as though they might do just that.

Just three minutes into the second period, Earls was sniping down the left wing and the home crowd smelled blood. The score soon arrived via a penalty try after Munster’s forwards pushed hard at the Leinster line, with Busby also sending Leinster backrow Deegan to the bin.

Thomond was now a cauldron of noise. 

Yet Leinster responded by doing what they do so well – answering setbacks by landing killer blows.

They moved into the Munster 22 and won a penalty. From a tap and go, Sheehan produced a brilliantly disguised pass in behind to send Penny over. Byrne converted, Leinster dusted themselves down and went in search of another.

It didn’t take them long to hit Munster for a second. Byrne sent a crossfield kick out wide to Penny, who attacked the space ahead before being swallowed up. Leinster arrived in numbers and kept the pressure on, with Sheehan eventually getting over. Byrne clipped over the extras and 14-man Leinster now led by six thanks to a four-minute flurry.

luke-mcgrath-with-calvin-nash Dan Sheridan / INPHO Leinster’s Luke McGrath with Calvin Nash of Munster. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

It was ruthless, clinical stuff from the URC leaders.

A gripping contest then took another turn as Munster, who have been a clear second best in this rivalry for far too long, dug in to take the game to their visitors again.

Craig Casey kicked a 50:22 after Diarmuid Barron had stripped the ball back for the home side.

Camped just short of the line, Munster huffed and puffed but found no way through – Coombes stopped just short after a typically bulldozing charge. They recycled the ball quickly and with Leinster caught narrow, spun it wide, where substitute Patrick Campbell was on hand to cross in the corner. Carbery skewed his conversion wide to leave Munster trailing by one point with 18 minutes to play.

patrick-campbell-celebrates-scoring-their-second-try Bryan Keane / INPHO Munster's Patrick Campbell celebrates scoring their second try. Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Then another massive moment in a contest which refused to let up. Luke McGrath had the tryline in his sights after bursting clear from a superb Jamie Osborne offload, but Calvin Nash did brilliantly to first scramble back, then nail the tackle on the Leinster scrum-half, with Munster’s supporting players doing well to get back in and win the turnover. 

This was a now a theme – Leinster knocking on the door, Munster doing everything they can to keep the game alive. They did just that, but couldn’t find another response. 

The final minutes played out with Leinster searching for the insurance score, happily running down the clock in the Munster 22 with Rowntree’s team struggling to get their hands back on the ball.

Leinster head for Dublin with their fourth successive win at Thomond, and their 10th win from their last 11 against Munster. It’s been a while since they’ve had to work quite so hard for it.

Munster scorers:

Tries – Coombes, penalty, Campbell

Penalties – Carbery [0/1]

Conversions – Carbery [2/2]

Leinster scorers:

Tries – Penny, Sheehan,

Penalties – R Byrne [2/3]

Conversions – R Byrne [2/2]

Munster: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls (Patrick Campbell 60); Joey Carbery (Rory Scannell, 65), Conor Murray (Craig Casey 52); Dave Kilcoyne (Josh Wycherley, 62), Niall Scannell (Diarmuid Barron 60 (Niall Scannell 68 HIA)), John Ryan (Roman Salanoa, 62); Jean Kleyn (Kiran McDonald, 72), Tadhg Beirne; Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Alex Kendellen, 67), Gavin Coombes.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose (captain), Jamie Osborne, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Nick McCarthy (Luke McGrath, 50); Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy (Vakhtang Abdaladze, 60); Ryan Baird (Ross Molony, 50), Joe McCarthy; Rhys Ruddock (Jack Conan, 55), Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Yellow card: Deegan 43

Referee: Chris Busby [IRFU]

Attendance: 25,600 

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