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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 14 December, 2018


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Good afternoon, inter-provincial rugby fans.

We’ve got the weekend’s second Irish derby coming right up from what is expected to be an almost packed Aviva Stadium.

Kick-off is not until 2pm, so you’ve got time to kick back, put the kettle on or a can in the freezer or read our big match preview here.

Got through that, then you’ll enjoy this feature interview with Andrew Conway, who has been on both sides of this rivalry, but has redoubled his efforts in recent seasons to hit the peak of his powers.

Here are your teams for today, as announced on Friday.


15. Joey Carbery
14. Adam Byrne
13. Rory O’Loughlin
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Barry Daly
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath

1. Jack McGrath
2. James Tracy
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Devin Toner
5. Scott Fardy
6. Rhys Ruddock
7. Josh van der Flier
8. Jack Conan


16. Seán Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Michael Bent
19. Ross Molony
20. Jordi Murphy
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Fergus McFadden


15. JJ Hanrahan
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Tyler Bleyendaal
11. Keith Earls
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Robin Copeland
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander


16. Rhys Marshall
17. Liam O’Connor
18. Stephen Archer
19. Mark Flanagan
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. Rory Scannell
23. Alex Wootton

Referee: Ben Whitehouse.

10 minutes to go to before kick-off here in a slowly filling Aviva and we’re still excitedly waiting to see just how Munster will deploy the three playmakers selected in the back-line.

A 10, 12, 15 of Ian Keatley, Tyler Bleyendaal and JJ Hanrahan provides a wealth of attacking threat, but we would have been less surprised to see the trio in any other combination that Rassie has selected, so watch out for some rotation of roles.

The teams are out, the blue flags are waving, but there is a disappointing amount of empty green seats on show as we get ready for kick-off.


We’re under way. Luke McGrath has already targeted two box kicks for Adam Byrne, testing Conway early on.


There’s a first glimpse of Munster’s playmakers as Keatley and Tyler B attempt to raid on the left. There’s no immediate route through, but the passing  throughout the side is slick and when it comes to Conway on the right, he pumps his leg to make a break.


Excellent defence from Leinster, first forcing Munster back after that Conway burst and then superb line-speed to force the error and Byrne stole possession, but was caught before he could open up his stride.


Some terrific hits going in, first Joey Carbery gets man-handled after stealing a yard or two with his elusive movement, then Chris Farrell smashes James Tracy in midfield.

Penalty comes Leinster’s way though and they’ll set up to maul in the 22.


The maul stalls after a yard of gain and Sexton looks for another big high ball for Byrne to contest with Keith Earls. The veteran does enough to spoil and the ball skitters out of play.

Cullen’s men go through the phases and Sexton goes back to an aerial for Byrne. That’s four the half-backs have hoisted for the young wing in just nine minutes.


TRY! Then without a TMO check, no try.

Referee Ben Whitehouse has hot himself in all sorts of confusion here. Keith Earls finished off a Munster break after a very forward pass from Chris Farrell.

Initially, Whitehouse looked unwilling to listen to  Jonathan Sexton’s request for a TMO check, but as the conversion was being lined up, he caught a glmpse of the big screen replay and waved the try back.

To compound Munster’s disappointment, he then ran back and set the scrum about 10 metres short of where the pass occurred.

Go figure.

Flag 17Mins

TRY! Leinster 7 Munster 0 (O’Lloughlin ’16)

O’Loughlin delivers the first score of the game after spinning through a weak John Ryan tackle and rolling over the line despite the efforts of CJ Stander and Robin Copeland.

Flag 20Mins

After a bit of kick tennis between Keatley, Carbery and Conway, another poor kick from Keatley’s hands invites a counter from Leinster.

Niall Scannell reaches in the hope of a possible intercept, but it goes to ground and he gets a yellow card for a deliberate knock down.

SIN-BIN: Niall Scannell


Keith Earls steals possession on his 22 and cuts loose, he looks on the verge of a breakaway with men in support, but gets an ankle tap from Carbery.

He pops up a pass to Keatley, once tackled he flings a pass high and backwards, but not high enough to evade big Devin Toner who reaches all of 10 feet in the air to pluck the ball back.


CJ Stander is on line-out throwing duty while Niall Scannell is in the bin, the Lion is 1/1 on his throws.


There’s no chalking that one off!

Keatley is in like a shot when Johnny Sexton’s – slightly low- pass bounces up off the palms of Robbie Henshaw’s palms. The Munster 10 holds tight, pinned his ears back and raced 45 metres to the posts.

Here’s how Rory O’Loughlin celebrated the opening try.

Rory O’Loughlin celebrates scoring his sides opening try with Luke McGrath, Scott Fardy and Robbie Henshaw Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Flag 36Mins

TRY! Leinster 14 Munster 7 (O’Loughlin ’34)

Soon after we got up to a seventh Garryowen launched towards Adam Byrne Leinster sweep back to the left and a Sexton loop of Tadhg Furlong creates an overlap which Carbery uses to full advantage by putting McLoughlin around the corner for his second.

Important to add at this point that, with those two conversions, Jonathan Sexton has pulled level Felipe Contepomi as Leinster’s all-time leading points scorer on 1225.

One more score will give him the crown outright.


Munster end the half with a long overdue clinical kick from hands. It sails over Joey Carbery’s head and out of play, but they can’t build from it as the interval is here.

HALF-TIME:  Leinster 14 Munster 7


And we’re back up and running for the second half.

Flag 45Mins

Chris Farrell is penalised in his 22 for a high tackle on Carbery and Sexton slots the chance.

PENALTY! Leinster 17 Munster 7 (Sexton ’43)

He is now Leinster’s record points scorer.


TRY!  Leinster 17 Munster 12 (Earls ’47)


A terrific break from Tommy O’Donnell, breaking the line with his own acceleration and patiently drawing in Carbery’s tackle while veering towards Earls’ left wing.

The flanker offloads to Earls who hits the gas and he shades his 30 metre sprint against Byrne to touch down in the corner.

JJ’s conversion attempt is off target.


Leinster’s bench comes on to make an immediate impact, the new front row forces a penalty for Sexton.

PENALTY! Leinster 20 Munster 12 (Sexton ’51)


The flow of penalties just going against Munster now you feel. JVDF rewarded for forcing Scannell to hold on and Sexton smashes over from 42 metres.

PENALTY! Leinster 23 Munster 12 (Sexton ’55)


Munster still pushing to put this result in doubt, they kick their penalties to the corner and try to set up a maul from 10 metres.

The second throw in hits the ref, but thankfully for Munster he is in the middle of blowing for another penalty.

Leinster must be close to sin-bin territory here.


The fourth maul brings a whistle in Leinster’s favour and Rhys Ruddock is getting the plaudits from his team-mates.

The hosts will scrum to exit.

That’s a disappointing return from that platform for Munster.


Conor Murray has taken over a lot of kicking responsibilities for his side in this half. Neither side using the boot as much as they did in the first half.


Ouch! JJ Hanrahan looks in some pain after grounding a smart grubber into the corner by Jamison Gibson Park.

The Kerryman had to out-pace Barry Daly to get to the ball first, but the twist post-collission seemed to touch a nerve in his back.

He’s up and away now thankfully.


Chris Farrell cements Henshaw with a hit in midfield. Zero arms used in that collision, but no whistle comes for Leinster.

Henshaw opts to take a knee during the following phases.

To Munster’s credit, they’re still trying to play expansive rugby in search of this losing bonus point. A Leinster knock on scuppers their progress but brings a penalty to set them up for one last siege


TRY! Leinster 23 Munster 17 (Earls ’78)

Another terrific flying finish from the Limerick man.

Hanrahan’s snap conversion is wide though, so Munster can run again in search of a win.

About the author:

Sean Farrell


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