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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 17 June, 2019
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For these two provinces at least, everything that has come before in this season has been shadow-boxing.

Tonight in Limerick, the season starts for real as Munster and Leinster rekindle their rivalry and ramp up the intensity into the opening week of the Heineken Cup.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the match. E-mail sean@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Munster 19 – 15 Leinster

So, here it goes then. Thomond Park’s first game of the season and who should come round for a cuppa only their old buddies, Leinster.

Here are your teams.

Munster: Felix Jones, Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo, Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer; Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (Capt.), Niall Ronan, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Damien Varley, James Cronin, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Conor Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.
Leinster: Rob Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Lote Tuqiri, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney, Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross; Mike McCarthy, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (Capt.)
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Jimmy Gopperth, Luke Fitzgerald.

So, while we carbo-load one last sandwich before taking a seat in the stand, let’s have your big match prediction for what promises to be a cracking game ahead.

Can Paulie lead the southern province to victory? Will Leinster feel a gaping void where Sexton and BOD once were?

Or, will O’Brien’s return give the visitors enough go-forward ball for Ian Madigan to flourish in the space behind.

We’re just over 30 minutes from kick-off, plenty of time to read Murray Kinsella’s head-to-head preview here.

Right, after that wee technical hitch, we’ve got Stand Up And Fight on full blast and we’re ready to welcome the teams into Thomond Park.

The majority of Leinster fans are in the south stand and they kicked off the cheers once the music died down. Despite plenty of empty seats here, it didn’t take long for them to be drowned out.

Jamie Heaslip leads his side into the breach and they wait in the huddle for Munster to follow them out.

Brace yourselves, Ireland.

O’Mahony needs only to take the field to whip the crowd into a frenzy and we’re off.

KICK-OFF

Ian Madigan with the starting order and a kick to O’Mahony. The skipper takes the contact and Keatley returns a kick to half-way.

Penalty  to Leinster, Kilcoyne pinged for going off his feet after D’Arcy was taken to ground.

PENALTY: Munster 0 – 3 Leinster (Madigan ’2)

Another ball hoisted by Keatley and Earls is haring after it to take down Kearney on landing. Munster win the turnover and they attack from inside the 10-metre line.

Inventive stuff as Munster sweep from left to right, but Laulala’s pass is just out of O’Mahony’s reach. Knock-on.

Advantage Munster. They win a free kick from an early engage and Coughlan carries. Leinster regroup to turn the ball over after a big hit from D’Arcy on Earls and the kick give Keatley a little trouble on the turn. Zebo manages to clear to near halfway.

First scuffle of the night and O’Mahony is in the thick of it, surrounded by BJ Botha and half a dozen blue shirts.

Limerick has missed this rugby team. Thomond is on its feet as Keatley pops a reverse pass for Donnacha Ryan to storm through the gap to the Leinster 22.

Again, ominously for Munster, Leinster manage to contest the breakdown and eventually clear their lines where Munster kick out on the full.

Breakdown? Munster just smashed all before them. Another high ball to Dave Kearney, another well-timed hit from Earls and the red shirts stormed in to force a penalty…. which Keatley inexplicably pings off the post after the silence descends.

Munster won’t be deterred. Back they come with a big, bustling run from James Downey and Jones is able to take it on further. When the ball comes loose however, Leinster commit numbers and force a Poite penalty on halfway.

Madigan takes up the challenge, but it drops short and bounces off the padding on the post.

That misses Madigan kick has helped his side get a foothold in Munster territory. Leinster take the ball through the phases, but have nothing very inventive to offer and the passage ends with unplayable ball and a scrum.

From that scrum however, a penalty. Stephen Archer crumpling under Cian Healy and that is a relatively handy one for Madigan to extend the lead.

PENALTY: Munster 0 – 6 Leinster (Madigan ’23)

27 mins: After a fluid move on the left was halted with another big hit from Earls on Dave Kearney, Leinster go back to basics and try to attack round the fringes. Again Munster nullify them, forcing a penalty to take them back over the halfway line.

The hosts need a score to show for their display so far.

And there it is, Poite’s whistle punctuates another set-piece and this time it’s in Munster’s favour. A much more difficult kick for Keatley, but he nails it from 40 metres.

PENALTY Munster 3 – 6 Leinster (Keatley ‘ 29)

Munster win the restart after Tuqiri rises for a short one and comes up with nothing. Back to the left flank, Munster break through Earls and his chip makes it a foot-race with Dave Kearney.

Kearney dives to win, but the ball is loose and Madigan is judged to have come into the ruck illegally.

SIN-BIN Ian Madigan (31 mins)

TRY! Munster 8 – 6 Leinster (Earls ’33)

TRY! Munster 10 – 6 Leinster (Earls ’33)

Clinical stuff from Munster, taking the ball in tight in the left hand corner before Keatley picks out Earls with a beaut’ of a cross-field kick. The winger is having a stormer. He got the better of Dave Kearney again on that one.

Leinster respond. It’s been the big feature of Matt O’Connor’s takeover, the maul is the go-to weapon when times get anywhere near tough.

Munster withstand two pods of it, but on the whistle we can see O’Mahony laid out. He bumped his head off Sean Cronin’s knee when going in low to tackle the hooker.

The physios and doctors take their time with the young captain.

He’s sitting up to great applause from the crowd, but he can’t possibly continue this game. And yet, there he is slotting right back into the Munster line as Fergus McFadden lines up a penalty.

PENALTY: Munster 10 – 9 Leinster (McFadden ’39)

HALF TIME: Munster 10 – 9 Leinster

The doctors have 12 more minutes to find a hint of concussion about Peter O’Mahony.

That aside, this is a terrific game. Munster with some brilliant passages of play, but the erratic Poite whistle is making continuity difficult for both sides.

Here come Leinster, ready for a second half in which they’ll bid to overturn Munster’s slender lead.

Munster come out, thankfully, without Peter O’Mahony. CJ Stander is on in his place.

SECOND HALF: Keatley gets us under way with a long restart. Leinster kick right back, bringing us to half way. Y’all ready for this?

PENALTY: Munster 13 – 9 Leinster (Keatley ‘ 42)

The ex-Leinster and Connacht man has well and truly put the early yips behind him, drilling a 40 metre penalty low between the posts to extend the lead.

Ian Madigan returned the action after that penalty and Leinster have set about building camp in Munster territory. Even with the full compliment of 15, they don’t look to have the ideas to break the defence down.

Although, after D’Arcy grubbers 10 yards for a line-out, Munster did struggle to clear their lines, but when they did they returned Madigan’s kick with interest in a promising counter-attack move ended by a poor drop-goal attempt from Keatley.

Back in Munster territory, Leinster inject some pace in the attack and after Niall Ronan goes off his feet, Madigan has an easy three-point chance.

PENALTY: Munster 13 – 12 Leinster (Madigan ‘ 53)

The cavalry is on the way for Munster. Conor Murray is on in place of Duncan Williams, but his first touch comes with Poite awarding a penalty after Madigan clips Archer after chipping ahead.

Even after a check with the TMO, the penalty stands, extremely harsh on the prop and the boos ring out after Madigan bisects the posts.

PENALTY: Munster 13 – 15 Leinster

The replacements bench is getting busy now, Cronin and Varley are in the game in place of Sherry and Kilcoyne. Isaac Boss replaces Eoin Reddan in his native city.

Meanwhile, Keith Earls proves he can provide great value in tight areas too,forcing a penalty which brings another flawless strike from Keatley.

PENALTY: Munster 16 – 15 Leinster (Keatley ’57)

Madigan’s error at the restart give Munster a scrum on half-way. Murray peels off the back and drills a brilliant kick into the corner. O’Connell rises to contest the line-out, but Poite has the whistle out again and Madigan can clear the lines.

Cronin’s impact at the scrum is instant. The red pack drive Leinster backwards from half-way and Keatley will have a chance to restore the four-point lead.

PENALTY: Munster 19 – 15 Leinster (Keatley ’63)

Conor Murray is a class apart. Every touch since he came on has been on the money. This time, stepping back to make space and set off a move from right to left. Laulala had numbers, but no space outside him and his kick brings play into the Leinster 22.

Lote Tuqiri, everybody.

The Wallaby has been almost a passenger for an hour here, but that one big break through the middle is he’s such an iconic figure in Australia.

Munster manage to cut him down and after three phases, they win possession back and clear the lines. Kearney takes a weaving trail through the middle, but when D’Arcy’s pass goes behind Tuqiri, he’s forced to turn to collect the ball on the touchline and the first thing he sees is a manic Paul O’Connell flying at him.

68 mins: BJ Botha and Donncha O’Callaghan are on the field now. Only JJ Hanrahan is left on the Munster bench. Can’t blame Rob Penney for keeping Keatley on in this form.

Munster win the scrum against the head on Leinster’s 22 and they will pour forward now through the pack.

Munster come so close, but Hurley is crowded out on the left wing. The turnover comes and Tuqiri looks to have a decent angle to go all the way, but by the halfway line he pulls up, offloads and points to either his knee or hamstring.

Jimmy Gopperth takes his place, Ian Madigan moves to centre with Leinster chasing the game.

75 mins: It’s getting tense here, Munster sense an overdue win and Damien Varley helps their cause, forcing a penalty after Madigan goes to ground. Keatley will try to take his tally to five from six from 50 metres…. but it trails right of the posts.

Wow. Rob Kearney is a little unlucky there, his mazy run is scuppered by accidental crossing.

No, hold on, we come all the way back for a Madigan knock-on on the 22. Leinster win the penalty, but Madigan can only drive the ball 10 metres up the line.

Thomond Park is in full voice. Munster wrap up Leinster’s final attack and force a scrum. That should be enough to whittle down the remaining seconds and seal their first win over Leinster since the Magners League final.

FULL TIME: Munster 19 – 15 Leinster

There you have it, folks. A pulsating contest brought a thoroughly deserved Munster win, we’ll have all the post-match reaction and talking points from Limerick in the coming hours.

Until then, safe home.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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