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Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Leinster's winning streak rumbles on thanks to dominant defence against Munster

Ross Byrne was instrumental as Leinster opened up a 13-0 lead which Munster could not reel in.
Dec 28th 2019, 7:51 PM 41,498 116

Munster 6

Leinster 13

LEINSTER’S WINNING STREAK will now stretch on into 2020 and stands at 15 games.

And the latest addition to the run will surely feel among the sweetest for the eastern province as it came in front of a packed Thomond Park, without a host of their marquee names, but with their gritty defensive effort on full display.

The team-sheets contained a grand total of three men who were involved with Ireland’s World Cup efforts in Japan, so both teams were weakened with the absence of front-liners. 

Leinster boss Leo Cullen had to dip down a little further than planned at scrum-half, where Jamison Gibson Park had to be withdrawn due to injury and Rowan Osborne was tossed in for his first senior start.

It was the home side’s number 9 who was put under the most strenuous heat in the early stages, however. Devin Toner’s looming presence gave his former team-mate Nick McCarthy a torrid time and he struggled to strike an effective trajectory on his box kicks.

After 10 minutes, after Ross Byrne’s nicely drilled end-over-end kick bounced up and over the head of Mike Haley, a short McCarthy clearance invited a Leinster attack from the 22. The out-half sought out a gap and fed James Lowe to eat up more substantial ground. The Kiwi was stopped short, but after Jimmy O’Brien attempted to scramble his way to the whitewash, Ed Byrne forced the breakthrough.

james-lowe-receives-an-offload-from-ross-byrne Lowe reaches for Byrne's offload. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

With Leinster dominating territory thanks to a combination of scrum-half pressure, breakdown discipline and a wind that had flags standing stiff on end, Munster struggled to stay on the right side of Frank Murphy and Byrne extended the lead to 0-10 after Chris Cloete was harshly penalised.

A soft penalty for contact in the line-out allowed Byrne to extend the lead out further, but he and his former schools half-back McCarthy were involved in a welcome Munster spark at the tail end of the first half.

The Leinster 10 was fortunate to escape sanction when he instinctively blocked and tangled with McCarthy after the scrum-half had charged him down. Munster did mount their first meaningful attack off the back of a knock-on in that move and forced a penalty for JJ Hanrahan to put his side on the board for a 3-13 half-time scoreline.

A change of ends and a change of fortunes. It was Leinster who immediately felt momentum lean against them. Centre Conor O’Brien spilled the restart and Josh Murphy coughed up a penalty to tee up Hanrahan to kick Munster within seven.

Game on, Leinster reacted by ploughing through an extended set of attacking phases that took them all the way to the five-metre line before Andrew Porter spilled. Munster, not content with winning the skirmish, looked to move the ball wide on an instant counter attack, only to see it fizzle out with a poor option from the otherwise bright Mike Haley.


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joey-carbery Will Connors moves in on Joey Carbery. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The packed-out Thomond roared to acclaim the replacements as they rolled on and the cheer that greeted the return of Joey Carbery was loudest of all. The Athy man had 24 minutes to work with and a seven point gap to reel in. He also had Rory Scannell’s excellent array of kicking to force Leinster back into their own territory before Carbery unleashed his own bobbling beaut to the five-metre line.

That set up the endgame. Munster lay siege while the visitors set up an incredibly impressive defensive stall with Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy and Caelan Doris to the fore. Johann van Graan sent on 6’9″ academy lock Darren O’Shea in time to take a five-metre line-out, but he was taken down to earth with a devastating thud as Sean Cronin powered into him with a low tackle in front of the posts and drove him backwards.

When Fardy forced a turnover on the back of a loose pass, that should have been that, but Leinster were unable to close the contest in a clinical way.

Instead, it took a botched 80th minute line-out to finally take the wind out of the Munster faithful and extend Leinster’s 100% record this season to a 13th game, a 15 match winning run overall dating back to their Champions Cup final loss to Saracens in May.



Penalties: JJ Hanrahan (2/2)


Tries: E Byrne,

Conversions: R Byrne (1/1)

Penalties: R Byrne (2/2)

Munster: Mike Haley, Dan Goggin (Calvin Nash ’76), Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly, JJ Hanrahan (Joey Carbery ’56), Nick McCarthy (Neil Cronin ’65): Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman ’51), Kevin O’Byrne (Diarmuid Bannon ’73), Stephen Archer (Keynan Knox ’54); Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell (Darren O’Shea ’73), Chris CLoete (Jack O’SUllivan ’55), Jack O’Donoghue.

Leinster:  Hugo Keenan, Adam Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien, Conor O’Brien (Ciaran Frawley ’58), James Lowe, Ross Byrne, Rowan Osborne (Hugh O’Sullivan ’65): Ed Byrne (Peter Dooley ’51), James Tracy (Sean Cronin ’51), Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, SCott Fardy, Josh Murphy (Ross Molony ’65) , Will Connors (Scott Penny ’76), Caelan Doris.

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