Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
# Convincing
5 talking points after Munster see off Leinster at Thomond Park
Dominance for Munster, the kick chase, Leinster’s blunt attack, Keatley at 10 and the Leinster D.

MUNSTER WERE 28-13 winners over Leinster this evening. Read our match report here.

Scoreboard tells a tale

Leinster were well beaten at Thomond Park, with Matt O’Connor admitting as much in the immediate aftermath of the clash. Munster’s three tries were hard-earned, but Anthony Foley would have had thoughts of a bonus point late on.

BJ Botha after he got his jersey back Billy Stickland / INPHO A topless BJ Botha laughs as Munster secure a convincing win. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The fourth try didn’t arrive, but there is utter satisfaction to be taken from the performance. As with all their biggest displays this season, the game plan was strikingly clear. Leinster knew exactly what was coming their way; stopping it was a different matter.

On the flip side, it was another evening of disappointment for Leinster fans. Whatever about issues at the breakdown, in defence and scoring points, the fact that Munster were apparently much hungrier and more focused will have hurt.

Munster’s kick chase

Munster’s success in the air was particularly important in the first half, as Foley’s side repeatedly lofted contestable kicks down the touchlines. Andrew Conway and Ronan O’Mahony chased energetically, while Felix Jones was as willing as ever.

Felix Jones Billy Stickland / INPHO Felix Jones was excellent in the air again this evening. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

In contrast, Leinster were hesitant and nervous in the aerial battles, as Darragh Fanning and Dave Kearney were beaten in one-on-one situations after getting off the ground. An early mix-up between Ian Madigan and Kearney said much about what was to come.

Munster are so effective with this type of game plan, even in the absence of the intelligent Conor Murray. In his stead, Duncan Williams and Ian Keatley allowed their teammates to get in the air and win important territory all evening.

Leinster blunt in attack

Leinster struggled for scores until Shane Jennings’ late consolation try, with just two Madigan penalties coming outside of that score and the conversion of it. Elsewhere, there was a bluntness to Leinster when they had the ball.

Shane Jennings scores a try Billy Stickland / INPHO Jennings dots down for a Leinster try with 10 minutes remaining. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

A windy, greasy, cold night in Limerick was never going to be ideal for running rugby, but there are other ways to accrue scores then dancing past defenders on long, wide passes. Leinster’s kicking game shaded in comparison to their opponents, while their attack when they kept the ball was limited.

There was some success with inside passes, but Munster grew comfortable in defending those mini-plays. Much credit goes to the home side’s defence, aggressive as it was, but Leinster simply needed to create more scoring opportunities.

Keatley the more prominent 10

Ian Madigan’s move into out-half provided a pre-match talking point, with Jimmy Gopperth benched. The Ireland international had several impressive early contributions with the boot, notably firing the ball into touch 60 metres downfield inside the first quarter.

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Ian Keatley kicks a penalty Billy Stickland / INPHO Keatley missed twice off the tee but ran the game smartly. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Thereafter, the game flowed away from Madigan, with Keatley featuring far more prominently. The 27-year-old Munster out-half kicked maturely and passed as sharply as ever.

His linebreak from deep in the first half was a highlight too, with Keatley identifying tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong in an exposed situation in the defensive line and calmly taking advantage.

Leinster struggle at the fringes

There was a sense of déjà vu at times in Thomond Park this evening, but a quick think back to this fixture at the Aviva Stadum earlier this season suggests that the feeling was based on reality.

Andy Lee shows his belt off to the Munster fans at Halftime with Paul O'Connell Billy Stickland / INPHO Any Lee joined in at Thomond Park. Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Munster made vital gains around the fringes of rucks with their pick and jams or simple short ball carries this evening, similarly to what happened back in October. Foley’s men are superb at getting length in their rucks, rucking beyond the ball and therefore opening slight spaces for the next ball carrier to drive into.

Losing individual collisions was part of the issue for Leinster, and they will look to bring more aggression to those zones next time out against Ulster.

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