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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020

Nacewa's double hands Leinster the interpro bragging rights over abject Munster

Leo Cullen’s men emerge victorious from derby which failed to ignite.

Leinster celebrate their third try.
Leinster celebrate their third try.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Leinster 25
Munster 14

– Ryan Bailey reports from the Aviva Stadium 

BY NO MEANS will this go down as a classic, but in the context of the province’s respective seasons it could well prove to be a defining day.

In the end, it was all too easy for Leinster as they extended their winning run over their southern rivals to three games and leapfrogged them into second in the Guinness Pro12 table.

For Munster, it was a reminder of how far they’ve fallen and the size of the task facing Rassie Erasmus; they were worryingly abject with basic mistakes proving fatal in their downfall.

Even a late rally at the Aviva Stadium couldn’t add any gloss to their second defeat of the season and one which sees them go into the new European season with more question marks hanging over their credentials.

It says much that Leinster didn’t need to get out of second gear here to rack up a morale-boosting victory in-front of 40,527.

Isa Nacewa’s double, either side of half-time, provided the backbone for this win with Jamison Gibson-Park’s first Leinster try sealing a sweet four points for Leo Cullen’s men.

Johnny Sexton was masterful in marshalling the hosts, Leinster’s back-row were comfortably superior and the Ringrose-Henshaw partnership showed incredibly encouraging signs.

Much of the build-up centered around the intensity of this fixture, and the suggestion that it had lost some of its spark, and on this evidence there his further weight to those claims.

Isa Nacewa  scores his sides second try despite Darren Sweetnam Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Leinster’s Jack McGrath with  Robbie Henshaw and Jamison Gibson-Park  after the match Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With Joe Schmidt, and his new lieutenant Andy Farrell, watching on, the contest failed to ignite and although most of the crowd would have left happy with the result, the entertainment flattered to deceive.

The pre-match atmosphere was tempered by the early afternoon kick-off, with many supporters deciding to wait until the last minute to leave Ballsbridge’s finest watering holes; the sense of occasion wasn’t quite there.

The players did their best to raise it with a contest of sheer brutality across the field from the very first minute.

If Peter O’Mahony, the Munster captain, didn’t realise he was back in the heat of the action, Nacewa made sure of it with a shuddering hit in the opening passage of play.

After a year on the sidelines, it was understandable that O’Mahony took time to settle into the game and he was penalised at the first line-out, allowing Sexton to open the scoring.

Leinster had assumed the early initiative at this point and could, and probably should, have extended their lead moments later.

Ringrose scythed through the wall of red shirts with a glorious show-and-go before offloading to the supporting Sexton. With Nacewa on his left shoulder, the out-half appeared to time his pass to perfection but the Leinster captain just didn’t have enough in his 34-year-old legs to out-sprint Simon Zebo to the corner.

With the help of Ronan O’Mahony, Zebo’s stellar defensive work saved a certain try — and, perhaps, even in the game’s infancy, Munster a difficult deficit to overhaul.

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton is tackled by Munster’s Rory Scannell Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Munster’s Billy Holland and Conor Murray after the match Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

As it was, Leinster had to settle for a second penalty after the visitors were penalised for not rolling away five metres from their own line; Sexton again making no mistake.

Cullen had yesterday launched a staunch defence of this interpro rivalry and he certainly wasn’t wrong in his assessment that it would be physical.

The back-row battle was always going to be a defining area, and Jordi Murphy had laid down an early marker by swallowing CJ Stander up and spitting him five yards backwards.

But Munster were up for the fight. Tyler Bleyendaal’s cross-field kick had Zebo licking his lips and although Kearney just about dealt with it, the southern province broke through Leinster’s rearguard in the next move.

After a period of sustained pressure, a powerful rolling maul created the opening for O’Mahony to mark his return with a try. Suddenly, Munster found themselves in the lead after Bleyendaal added the extras from the far touchline. That was as good as it was going to get for them.

Leinster’s initial swagger had been lost as they repeatedly ran into traffic with ball in hand; a hint of desperation in their attempts to regain control of proceedings.

Garry Ringrose knocks on at the try line Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Darren Sweetnam with Garry Ringrose Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was a lack of composure which cost Ringrose dearly with the line at his mercy. After Munster’s rearguard had stood firm, Sexton’s exquisite grubber through sat up on a plate for the young centre to gather and dot down.

But he was unable to collect, fumbling off his knee, to give Munster a reprieve; yet it was one they couldn’t make count.

Penned inside their own 22 for the final quarter of the half, the visitors were eventually broken down with a straightforward set-piece allowing Nacewa to score the first of his double.

Moments earlier, Luke McGrath’s dart for the line on the blindside was thwarted by an intervention from the referee but Munster didn’t take heed and were caught napping from the next scrum.

To their credit, Rassie Erasmus’ side came out of the blocks quickly after the restart but James Cronin’s double movement just short of the line proved to be the end of the game as a contest.

From there, Leinster were clinical, even if they were on the receiving end of a beneficial call from the officials. Kearney’s pass out to the unmarked Nacewa looked forward but referee Dave Wilkinson declined the option to go upstairs.

The pockets of Munster fans inside Lansdowne Road voiced their displeasure but they could have no arguments afterwards with the result. The manner of the defeat, however, will leave a sour taste.

Robbie Henshaw, largely quiet on his Leinster debut, forced the game-winning try as Bleyendaal inexcusably fumbled the ball on his own line to give substitute Gibson-Park the most straightforward of tasks.

Jaco Tuite did cross for Munster at the other end but it was too little, too late for a side left to mull over a disappointing performance ahead of a trip to Racing 92 next weekend.

Leinster scorers:Tries: Nacewa (2), Gibson-Park
Penalties: Sexton (2)
Conversions: Sexton, NacewaMunster scorers:Tries: O’Mahony, Tuite
Conversions: Bleyendaal (2)

LEINSTER: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Rory O’Loughlin, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Isa Nacewa (captain), 10. Johnny Sexton (Joey Carberry 70′), 9. Luke McGrath (Jamison Gibson-Park 63′); 1. Cian Healy (Jack McGrath 48′), 2. Sean Cronin (James Tracy 53′), 3. Tadhg Furlong (Mike Ross 63′), 4. Devin Toner, 5. Ian Nagle (Ross Molony 53′), 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Jordi Murphy (Dan Leavy 60′), 8. Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements not used: 23. Noel Reid.

MUNSTER: 15. Simon Zebo, 14. Darren Sweetnam, 13. Keith Earls (Jaco Tuite 57′), 12. Rory Scannell (Rory Scannell 71′), 11. Ronan O’Mahony, 10. Tyler Bleyendaal, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin 45′), 2. Niall Scannell, 3. John Ryan (Stephen Archer 63′), 4. Donnacha Ryan (Robin Copeland 70′), 5. Billy Holland, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Jack O’Donoghue HT) 7. Tommy O’Donnell, 8. CJ Stander.

Replacements not used: 16. Duncan Casey, 21. Duncan Williams.

Attendance: 40,527

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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