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Murray double helps Munster finally end their Leinster hoodoo

The experience in Johann van Graan’s team told against a youthful Leinster.

Conor Murray runs in the first of his two tries against Leinster.
Conor Murray runs in the first of his two tries against Leinster.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Leinster 3
Munster 27

Ciarán Kennedy reports from the RDS

MUNSTER TRAVELLED TO Dublin for tonight’s Rainbow Cup meeting with Leinster carrying more baggage and under more pressure than this strange, makeshift tournament should be able to offer its audience.

Yet six straight losses to your greatest rivals means that even if Leinster and Munster were to have a run-out down the road in Sandymount Strand, the men in red would be desperate to win.

So it was little surprise their team of experienced stars came out fighting in RDS given their recent record against Leo Cullen’s side. They made a heap of errors and at times struggled to stay on the right side of the law, yet will look back at this game and feel they could have won by even more.

In the end two Conor Murray tries and a succession of assured Joey Carbery kicks at goal were enough to see Munster home with some ease on a crisp Dublin night. 

Leinster were far from full strength but still had plenty of quality in their team. Garry Ringrose captained the side on his return from injury. James Lowe and Jordan Larmour lined out in the back three.

There was a return for James Ryan, too, promoted to the starting XV before kick-off. Ryan Baird moved to blindside and Josh Murphy shifted across to number eight, while David Hawkshaw and 20-year-old Martin Moloney came onto the bench.

Caelan Doris (calf) and Ciarán Frawley (hamstring) dropped out of the squad as a precautionary measure after pulling up in Friday’s Captain’s Run.

As you would expect of a side that had lost their last six to Leinster, Munster started like a team on a mission. An early Leinster venture in the Munster 22 came to nothing and ended up with some early pushing and shoving, fully encouraged and enjoyed by the men in red.

Leinster regathered and came again, but Peter O’Mahony won a big turnover and Munster quickly countered. Damian De Allende burst down the middle and the ground opened up in front of him.

joey-carbery-and-cj-stander-tackle-rory-oloughlin Rory O'Loughlin runs into traffic. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The big Springbok sent Jordan Larmour spinning with a shimmy of the hips a man of his size shouldn’t be able to produce, and waited for the right moment to play in Conor Murray for the simplest of finishes. Joey Carbery converted with ease and Munster were 7-0 up. Game on.

Things went from bad to worse as Leinster lost Harry Byrne to injury. With no Johnny Sexton or Ross Byrne to call on, David Hawkshaw came into fray with 75 minutes to play. The young out-half was offered an early chance to settle himself with a sweetly-struck penalty to get his team on the scoreboard.

It would be their only score of the night.

The next 10 minutes were played between the two ’22s. Leinster would snipe only to be shut down, while Munster sent their big battering rams into contact. Leinster saw a lineout lost to their former employee Tadhg Beirne. Carbery cursed himself for a knock-on.

Every moment was met with boisterous encouragement from the two sets of replacements as the error count rose, while both sides guilty of sloppy handling on a number of occasions. 

Leinster looked increasingly vulnerable as the half wore on and their attacks repeatedly broke down. Munster sensed opportunity, and to their credit, tried to play, unlike their most recent visit to this ground.

De Allende was at the heart of most of it, linking the play well while also bringing his usual physicality. 

However when Munster should have been looking to put their foot down, their discipline unravelled. Stephen Archer was yellow carded just after the hour mark for dangerous play, the tighthead going for a walk along the torso of James Ryan when his team were parked on the Leinster tryline.

Leinster were off the hook, but invited more pressure as O’Mahony stole a lineout shortly after. Leinster coughed up another penalty and Carbery clipped the kick over with ease to move his team seven points clear.

A man down, Munster kept the intensity up as Leinster struggled to turn their possession into territory. Chris Farrell dumped Andrew Porter on his back. Seconds later, Shane Daly thundered into Dave Kearney on the touchline.

chris-farrell-tackles-andrew-porter Chris Farrell lands a big hit on Andrew Porter. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Referee Chris Busby intervened with Jack O’Donoghue crashed into Ed Byrne at a ruck. A quick TMO check resulted in nothing more than a penalty and O’Mahony being reminded that his teammates needed cool heads. Easier said than done.

Hawkshaw screwed the penalty wide to end a chaotic first half.

As is their wont, Leinster looked to turn the screw after the break. They battered towards the Munster tryline only for a combination of Niall Scannell and O’Donoghue to intervene and prevent what looked a certain try.

Instead it was Munster who increased their lead, Carbery nailing another penalty to push their cushion out to 10 points. That score seemed to finally settle them. The errors remained, but Munster kept their tempo up, looking to keep the ball alive rather than being sucked into a dogfight. They dominated the breakdown and brought ferocious linespeed.

Leinster sent in the cavalry, with Scott Fardy, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent entering the fray. However Leinster’s youthful half-backs were struggled to stamp their authority on the game and bring their backline into play as Munster got their power game going.

Just after the hour mark Munster won a big scrum and clicked their attack into gear, with big involvements from Gavin Coombes and Farrell. The Ireland centre thought he was in for a try, only to be held up short, but Murray was on hand to take possession and leap over the sea of bodies for his second try of the night. 

Munster led by 17 with less than 20 minutes to play. 

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ryan-baird-tackles-jeremy-loughman Jeremy Loughman breaks past Ryan Baird. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Leinster’s next trip to the Munster ’22 ended with another massive turnover from Beirne. Their key men had turned up and were delivering the important moments. At that point it was clear Leinster were not going to negotiate an unlikely comeback.

The momentum was all with Munster and a penalty try followed on 71 minutes with Cormac Foley sent to the line.

Leinster will get over this. Next weekend’s trip to La Rochelle is where their real focus lies.

Munster, however, will quite fancy the look of this Rainbow Cup. We still don’t know what will be required to win the tournament, but Van Graan’s side have already cleared what was likely to be their biggest hurdle. 

Leinster scorers
Penalty Hawkshaw (1/1)

Munster scorers
Tries Murray (2), Penalty
Conversions Carbery (2/2)
Penalty Carbery (2/2)

Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose (captain) (Tommy O’Brien ’59). Rory O’Loughlin, James Lowe; Harry Byrne (David Hawkshaw ’5), Hugh O’Sullivan (Cormac Foley ’65); Ed Byrne (Peter Dooley ’58), Dan Sheehan (Seán Cronin ’58), Andrew Porter (Michael Bent ’58); Ross Molony, James Ryan (Scott Fardy ’60); Ryan Baird (Martin Moloney ’72), Scott Penny, Josh Murphy.

Yellow card: Foley 72

Munster: Mike Haley; Keith Earls (Calvin Nash ’62), Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery (Ben Healy ’67), Conor Murray (Craig Casey ’62); Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman ’58), Niall Scannell (Diarmuid Barron ’72), Stephen Archer (Keynan Knox ’65); Jean Kleyn (Fineen Wycherley ’55), Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Jack O’Donoghue (Gavin Coombes ’55), CJ Stander.

Yellow card: Archer 34. 

Referee: Chris Busby [IRFU]. 

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About the author:

Ciarán Kennedy

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