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Dublin: -1°C Friday 4 December 2020


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Now, where were we…

A very good afternoon, rugby fans. Welcome along to our liveblog of the big restart game after a testing six months or so when sport had to take a seat way in the back because of, y’know, the pandemic.

Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, but rugby is right back with us as of 19.35 (eir Sport) this evening and the prospect of seeing Leinster v Munster with the season approaching the business end has us itching to dive head first back into the game again.

Here’s how the teams will line-up for today’s clash.

It’s almost like getting a heap of old friends together for a stag, but there are new faces in there too. Damien De Allende and RG Snyman will be bringing World Cup-winning pedigree in among the Munster ranks.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Dave Kearney
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. James Lowe
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath

1. Cian Healy
2. Ronan Kelleher
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ryan Baird
5. Scott Fardy
6. Caelan Doris
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan


16. Sean Cronin
17. Ed Byrne
18. Michael Bent
19. Devin Toner
20. Will Connors
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Max Deegan


15. Shane Daly
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Damian de Allende
11. Keith Earls
10. JJ Hanrahan
9. Conor Murray

1. James Cronin
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. RG Snyman
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander


16. Rhys Marshall
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. John Ryan
19. Jean Kleyn
20. Chris Cloete
21. Craig Casey
22. Rory Scannell
23. Matt Gallagher

Referee: Andrew Brace.

Just over 10 minutes before kick-off then, the #banter is flying on the sidelines between Tommy Bowe, Gordon D’Arcy and Peter Stringer. They’re creating their own atmosphere with no crowd to feed off anyway.

Hopefully there’ll be some serious rugby business they can get their teeth into very soon.

There’s a late change to Munster’s side, one that actually strenghtens them as Dave Kilcoyne starts. James Cronin drops out and Jeremy Loughman takes up the 17 shirt.

KICK-OFF: Hanrahan gets Irish rugby back underway, kicking deep to Leinster.

Jordan Larmour has a cut from his 22, but goes into trouble. Brace penalises Munster and Sexton can look for touch.

4 mins: Larmour notably looks to run again after Hanrahan kicks a free-kick deep to Leinster’s right corner. Farrell tags him and a Ryan Baird error gives Munster a scrum platform to  play off on the edge of the Leinster 22.

Sexton is back, back putting his body in front of hard-hitting forwards. CJ Stander is met by the upright captain.

8 mins: Knock-ons are to be expected after such a long time away from competition and one cuts a Munster attack short.

But the big blow for the southern province is not the handling error, it’s a double injury blow.

RG Snyman’s knee looks very uncomfortable and Dave Kilcoyne – who wasn’t scheduled to start- is also off so Jean Kleyn and Jeremy Loughman are in the game after just eight minutes.

 10 mins: Caelan Doris is pinged for collapsing a Munster maul in the Leinster 22. Conor Murray is directing traffic here and Munster have the scent of a big score.

Hanrahan kicks back to the corner.

Chris Farrell showed up over and over to take on carries in an otherwise big forward effort from Munster in search of the try-line through one-out passes.

Eventually, after 17 phases, Leinster’s defence finally gave a gap and Hanrahan was able to move the ball left for Conway to canter over.

The Kerryman adds the conversion for a maximum Munster score.

Leinster 0 Munster 7

Great to see Jack Conan take a big carry off the back of a scrum. He was just returning to training after his World Cup-ending injury when lockdown hit.

The front foot has been turned into a big yardage gain by a subsequent Garry Ringrose break.

Sexton attempts to stretch the play further with a cross-field kick towards Dave Kearney, but it’s overcooked.

Penalty against Damian De Allende for a late hit. Liam Toland on commentary calls it ‘a serious cheap shot’, but that’s over-egging it if you ask us.

Leinster’s pack turn the screw and the maul brings Cian Healy tumbling over the line.

Sexton knocks over the conversion.

Leinster 7 Munster 7

PENALTY! Leinster 7 Munster 10 (Hanrahan ’27)

Superb turnover jackal attempt from CJ Stander after a Van der Flier carry. His efforts are rewarded with a straightforward penalty and Hanrahan knocks Munster back into the lead.

Penalty: Leinster 10 Munster 10 (Sexton ’30)

A cross-field kick from Hanrahan descends into a scrappy bit of handball before the penalty goes Leinster’s way. Sexton hits the corner and they work their way central where another penalty comes at the ruck and the skipper knocks over the leveller.

Another serious looking injury for Munster now while Larmour runs away after being penalised at a breakdown.

It’s Peter O’Mahony, here’s hoping he’s ok.

35 mins: Replays show O’mahony took his bang in the head or neck, he caught Garry Ringrose on the twist and the impact of the centre and then the ground took its toll.

The Corkman is up and about anyway, thankfully.

Penalty: Leinster 10 Munster 13 (Hanrahan ’35)

38 mins:

Maul penalty and Sexton passes up an easy kick at goal to go back to the corner. He has a staredown with the official over where the line-out is marked.

And his won’t be helped by an excellent O’Mahony challenge at the resultant line-out. Leinster still on the attack though…

Absolutely brilliant from Robbie Henshaw, deftly putting a grubber kick behind the posts and Ringrose darts the five metres fastest and touches down.

An easy conversion follows to ensure the hosts hold the half-time lead.

HALF-TIME: Leinster 17 Munster 13

Here comes the second half then, the fake crowd have returned from their half-time queue for pints.

42 mins: James Lowe, who has been fairly quiet in the first half, chips and chases down Leinster’s left. It comes to naught and Shane Daly tries to jink his way back upfield.

Both sides feeling one another out to start this half. Some cautious shadow boxing.

45 mins: Brilliant line-break from Luke McGrath takes Leinster well into Munster territory. The support runners – a Luke McGrath type, say – aren’t there to help extend the break further but Leinster recycle and Sexton dinks a ball to the try-line.

Andrew Conway can’t get a solid hand on it and he’s hit by Jordan Larmour, but Chris Farrell gets a hand to make it safe for Munster.

Larmour is hurt bad by his flying tackle though. Another one for the body count.

47 mins:

Leinster’s scrum v is stoutly defended by Munster and they manage to swamp McGrath to ensure he doesn’t show them any more gaps.

Tommy O’Donnell, the man who slipped off McGrath minutes ago, comes up with a big turnover penalty as he digs deep at the breakdown in front of his own posts.

That is O’Donnell’s last act of the game as Chris Cloete is sent in to add an energy boost to the Leinster pack.

I should say at this point that both Larmour and Peter O’Mahony are still playing on and seem in decent fettle.

The ‘wooos’ echo around the Aviva as Johnny Sexton gets a choke tackle spot on and forces a Leinster scrum from a Munster attack. He took a fair old bang in the back of the head while he was at it.

There’s that man we said was having a quiet one. There he is blazing a trail to the left corner.

Terrific try from Leinster off the back of that scrum won by Sexton. Ringrose has a cut, the ball is rapidly recycled and Sexton sets Ryan Baird away on the left with Lowe in support.

Leinster 24 Munster 13

Leinster’s winning streak in no danger at the minute and they’re within reach of a bonus point – not that they need it.

Munster will still feel they can reel in an 11-point gap however. They’ve brought that effective maul back to the right hand corner.

Jean Kleyn the latest man to take some treatment on his neck.

Cian Healy is also carrying an injury, a shoulder or fore–arm perhaps, and Ed Byrne has been sent on in his place.

Leinster’s defence is still forcing errors from a Munster attack that can ill afford them. Hanrahan’s pass to Farrell is just a few centimetres too low and the big Ulsterman can’t clamp his hands on it.

In all, the centre has been excellent for Munster. All the pre-match chat focused on the World Cup-winner alongside him, but Farrell has all the skills necessary.

60 mins: Leinster attack from their 22, Earls shoots up and Ringrose expertly riads the gap.

Dave Kearney pulls up limp during the move though and and the ball is kicked deep for little more than territorial gain.

SIN-BIN: Devin Toner

The big man isn’t on long and he’s pinged for taking the line-out down.

Munster can attack against the short-handed side now then. They work from the corner line-out across the pitch with one-out passes, but Leinster’s workrate forces them back…


TRY! Leinster 24 Munster 20 (Earls’65)

Back is just fine by Keith Earls. The ball is moved wide to the flying wing and he relishes the prospect of running at two scrum-halves and powers through Jamison Gibson-Park and Luke McGrath to reach over the line.

Hanrahan kicks a brilliant conversion to bring us back to a one-score game.

PENALTY: Leinster 27 Munster 20 (R Byrne ’70)

Leinster’s 14 men have reacted quite well since conceding the big score.

Not looking to do too much in attack and they bring out a penalty for Ross Byrne as Rhys Marshall is adjudged to have hit JGP off the ball.

Just in case we got swept up into thinking this was a no holds barred inter-pro, the replacements are here to remind us of the new-season warm-up necessities. Both Sexton and Conor Murray have now headed for the sideline.

The exciting Craig Casey is directing traffic for Munster from 9 now.

Leinster defend really narrow by necessity there and Munster finally get a chance to go wide. Hanrahan seems as though he’s left it late, but Daly does really well to invite Conway on and he produces a powerful finish through Lowe.

Hanrahan’s crucial conversion is…. wide.

And Leinster are back to 15.

Munster getting loads of change from O’Mahony at the line-out, consistently giving them a platform to play off and to attack Leinster in search of a winning score.

Less than two minutes to play.

Devin Toner with an intercept!

The big man doesn’t quite go the length, but it’s a massive steal as he gets those telescopic arms on the ball as Munster attacked Leinster’s 22.

A mistake there and it would have been a kickable penalty, but up the other end there’s a Munster knock on and their pinned in their own 22.

About the author:

Sean Farrell


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