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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 4 March 2021


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Good afternoon, season’s greetings and welcome along to our live coverage of this St Stephen’s Day inter-pro derby between Munster and Leinster from a sold-out Thomond Park.

After back-to-back wins in Europe for each of the provinces, they return to Pro14 action at the start of a busy Christmas and New Year period with much more than valuable points on the line.

Kick off is fast approaching at 3.15pm and stick with us throughout the afternoon for all the build-up and action as it unfolds.

TEAM NEWS: Johann van Graan has made four changes from last weekend’s Champions Cup win at Welford Road as Andrew Conway, Rhys Marshall, Keith Earls and Tommy O’Donnell all return from injury.

Captain Peter O’Mahony makes his 100th appearance for the province in the back row alongside CJ Stander and O’Donnell, while Ian Keatley and Conor Murray continue their half-back pairing.


15. Andrew Conway
14. Darren Sweetnam
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rhys Marshall
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander.


16. Niall Scannell
17. James Cronin
18. John Ryan
19. Darren O’Shea
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Simon Zebo.

TEAM NEWS: As for Leinster, Leo Cullen has made 12 changes from their victory over Exeter Chiefs last time out with Robbie Henshaw, Devin Toner and Jack Conan the only players retained.

There are starts for Jordan Larmour at fullback and James Lowe on the wing while Jack McGrath captains the province for the first time.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Barry Daly
13. Rory O’Loughlin
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Ross Byrne
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Jack McGrath (captain)
2. James Tracy
3. Michael Bent
4. Devin Toner
5. James Ryan
6. Jordi Murphy
7. Dan Leavy
8. Jack Conan


16. Richardt Strauss
17. Ed Byrne
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. Mick Kearney
20. Josh van der Flier
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Cathal Marsh
23. Noel Reid

Today’s game will see a record crowd for a Pro12/Pro14 fixture pack into Thomond Park and the atmosphere is certainly building, even if the temperatures are on the low side as kick-off approaches.

Leo Cullen and Johann van Graan before the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A view of the Leinster and Munster jerseys with the match programme ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Leinster team huddle before the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MATCH PREVIEW: To whet the appetite for this inter-pro derby, have a read of our preview here.

A view of the Leinster and Munster jerseys ahead of the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LATE CHANGES: Munster have been forced into two late changes before kick off with Keith Earls — who is ill — and Rhys Marshall dropping out. Alex Wootton is drafted straight into the squad and onto the wing while Kevin O’Byrne replaces Marshall at hooker.

PREDICTIONS: Although Leinster have won four of the last five meetings between the sides, the odds are heavily stacked in Munster’s favour this afternoon. They’ve been installed as firm favourites but which way do you see this one going?

Poll Results:

Munster win (387)
Leinster win (339)
Draw (9)

Just ten minutes to go before kick-off at Thomond Park. Seats are beginning to fill up nicely as we expect over 26,000 spectators — hats, gloves and scarves aplenty on a chilly afternoon in Limerick.


KICK-OFF: 1 – Munster 0-0 Leinster: We’re underway at Thomond Park as Leinster kick off!

1 – Munster 0-0 Leinster: Leinster earn an early penalty within kicking distance for Ross Byrne.

2– Munster 0-3 Leinster: No wind inside Thomond Park means Byrne’s kick floats easily between the posts as Leinster take an early lead.

4 – Munster 0-3 Leinster: Byrne in to replace Jonathan Sexton has been an apt replacement so far this afternoon, but Munster respond via a threatening kick from Conor Murray which put Leinster under some pressure. An intelligent kick from Murray, but Rory O’Loughlin provides cover to clear the danger.

7 – Munster 0-3 Leinster: Munster have responded perfectly from that early Byrne penalty and Leinster are being pushed further back and further back. Andrew Conway almost broke away following a neat offload, but was forced out of touch. Much more comfortable for Johann van Graan’s side.

8 – Munster 0-8 Leinster: TRY!!! A wonderful, perfectly weighted kick from Ross Byrne played in Dan Leavy who touched down. Nigel Owens calls it back for the TMO to check but he can’t find any infraction and it stands.

9– Munster 0-10 Leinster: Ross Byrne kicks the conversion over and Leinster have a ten point lead after as many minutes.

13 – Munster 0-13 Leinster: Ross Byrne kicks from considerable distance after Munster conceded yet another penalty. His effort is magnificent and it floats over. A slight breeze helps carry it over and it’s 0-13 to the visitors. What a start.

15 – Munster 0-13 Leinster: A knock-on sees another penalty conceded by Munster. It’s really sloppy play from the lineout and there are some frustrated bodies shaking their heads in red.

16– Munster 0-13 Leinster: Sam Arnold knocks the ball on after Conor Murray broke following a superb chip from Ian Keatley followed by a Wooton pass. Some serious flair on show but Munster fail to capitalise.

18 – Munster 5-13 Leinster: TRY!!! Munster have their first points on the board and it’s Conor Murray who gets the try diving far into the left corner.

19 – Munster 5-13 Leinster: Ian Keatley’s conversion falls short and drops just wide — the wind pulling from left to right making it difficult for the Dubliner.

20– Munster 5-20 Leinster: James Lowe almost in for a snap touchdown but the referee calls a TMO. A forward try may have been scored and Nigel Owens awards a penalty try to Leinster, with Andrew Conway given a yellow card. A fifteen point lead to Leo Cullen’s side.

23– Munster 5-25 Leinster: TRY!! It’s simply a stunning try from Leinster — Robbie Henshaw who gets it and they now have a 20 point lead with Ross Byrne’s conversion to come.

24 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Byrne kicks it over and it’s a 22 point lead. It’s a long way back for the hosts now as Leinster go from strength to strength. No-one expected this so early in this game.

27 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Leinster attack again, frustrating their opponents with clinical precision wave after wave. Thomond Park is growing eerily quiet as the minutes tick on.

30– Munster 5-27 Leinster: Munster beginning to slow their opponents down ever so slightly, winning a penalty. If nothing else it will give them breathing space as they enjoy a spell of possession on the edge of their own 22.

33 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Andrew Conway has since re-joined the action following his yellow card which conceded that penalty try –  goodness how Munster have missed him.

34 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Barry Daly tries to break away at pace but Ian Keatley manages to win possession and kicks into touch. Leinster re-cycle possession as the ball finds its way back to James Lowe, who kicks it straight to Alex Wootton. It’s a game of kick-ball — back and forth and back and forth at the moment.

38 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Leinster lose out in a second consecutive scrum. It’s a good distance for Ian Keatley, but his kick is terribly poor and the move comes to nothing as we approach the break. That could have been a way back into this game for Munster but they are lacking a clinical edge at the minute.

40 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Brilliant awareness of the breakdown from Leinster as they go in search of another try before the interval. Jamison Gibson-Park is instrumental but Munster are holding firm and pushing back — counting down the seconds at this stage.

Well, what did we make of that? A 22 point lead for the visitors following an incredible first half from Leo Cullen’s side.

Munster looked like rabbits caught in the headlights for much of that opening 40 minutes, with brilliant tries from Dan Leavy and Robbie Henshaw dominating proceedings.

Conor Murray got his side back into it early on, but Ross Byrne has simply dictated play from all sides so far. Do Munster have it in them to turn this around in the second half?

Plenty more action to come.

An intriguing opening 40 minutes at Thomand Park this St Stephen’s Day.

Peter O'Mahony with James Ryan in the line-out Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Robbie Henshaw celebrates scoring a try with teammates

Jack Conan with Dave Kilcoyne and CJ Stander

Robbie Henshaw scores a try

A view of a sold out Thomond Park

Second-half: We’re back underway for the second period.

41 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: The visitors hammering home early on but Munster working tenaciously at the breakdown as the ball is fed to Sam Arnold. Early graft from Peter O’Mahony who gets to the ball before James Ryan.

One change for Leinster at the break.

43 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Nigel Owens has an early quiet word with Devin Toner following a brash shoulder charge. Although Munster earn the lineout they waste it for the second time in succession as Ed Byrne steals it.

44 – Munster 5-27 Leinster: Simon Zebo has entered the fray alongside Niall Scannell for Munster as things begin to heat up.

46 – Munster 10-27 Leinster: TRY!! Ian Keatley storms through for the hosts and gives Munster a massive lifeline. He has really taken the game to Leinster, sometimes all on his own this afternoon.

47 – Munster 12-27 Leinster: Keatley kicks over the conversion as Tadhg Furlong comes on for Leinster. It’s very much helter-skelter now.

48 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: TRY!!! A fantastic individual try from Andrew Conway following a slick pass to let him in. He curved in and out of challenges before touching down and it’s all Munster at the moment! Ian Keatley slots over the extras — an eight point difference now.

53 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Simon Zebo dodges left and right before releasing to Conway. He is hit hard as Leinster bite back and try to stabilise this tide.

Munster are riding the crest of a momentous wave as the Fields of Athenry echoes around the stands of Thomond Park. A cracking atmosphere for a brilliant occasion. It’s finely balanced and all to play for with half an hour to go.

56 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Ian Keatley almost breaks through as Leinster begin to lose their defensive structure. Chaos is reigning supreme at the moment.

57 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Goodness me this is electrifying. What a phase of play that was! It ends with a suicidal kick across his own end line from Andrew Conway which almost saw Munster break suddenly. James Lowe gets a grip of the ball for Leinster following a grubber kick sent his way… and everyone takes an intake of air.

60 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Gibson-Park kicks the ball into touch as Jack O’Donoghue replaces Tommy O’Donnell.

64 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Tadhg Furlong is slotting in well at tighthead prop off the bench and providing a renewed sense of physical resilience late on in this game for Leinster as they continue to try and hold on against this Munster fightback.

66 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Richardt Strauss and Josh van der Flier both on for Leinster now as Jordi Murphy and James Tracy depart.

66 – Munster 19-27 Leinster: Conor Murray offering a lot of support around the blindside as Munster try to find an opening at every possible angle. This is relentless from the hosts but Leinster prevail and work the turnover to end the danger. Ferocious intensity from both sides.

70 – Munster 19-32 Leinster: TRY!!! Oh wow! That is one of the tries of the season from Jordan Larmour — simply stunning. He covers so much ground, his feet dance between challenges. Simon Zebo almost caught him at the end but Larmour manages to get it down over the line. You could watch that all day long and we will certainly be watching that one for years to come.

71 – Munster 19-34 Leinster: Ross Byrne knocks over the conversion, and could that be that?

A late change for Munster with just under seven minutes to go.


75 – Munster 19-34 Leinster: Munster currently camped inside the opposition 22 and upping the ante again late on. Gibson-Park puts pressure on Lowe and he is forced out of touch.

77 – Munster 24-34 Leinster: TRY!! Andrew Conway dashes over the line following a brilliant offload from Simon Zebo — the pass was perfectly weighted to suck in Lowe. Hanrahan’s conversion sails narrowly wide though — and it’s still a 10 point game.

77 – Munster 24-34 Leinster:  Richardt Strauss looks in bad shape and will depart the field after taking a heavy blow. He is only on the pitch a short time now, but he departs to the applause of Thomond Park. James Tracy returns for Leinster for the final few minutes.

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher


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