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Larmour's stunning score helps Leinster raid Thomond in inter-pro thriller

The visitors weathered a second-half Munster comeback to make it five straight wins.

Jordi Murphy and Jamison Gibson-Park celebrate Dan Leavy's try.
Jordi Murphy and Jamison Gibson-Park celebrate Dan Leavy's try.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Munster 24

Leinster 34

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

IF BACK-TO-BACK victories over the English champions Exeter Chiefs was a serious statement of intent from Leinster, coming to this place devoid of a host of their front-line internationals and emerging with five points by virtue of a clinical and quite superb performance is something else.

Not many teams come to Thomond Park on occasions like this and raid the place, but Leo Cullen’s side silenced a record crowd and demonstrated all their title credentials in not only scoring four tries but then withstanding a second-half Munster comeback to emerge victorious.

The complexion of a helter-skelter and thoroughly absorbing Guinness Pro14 inter-pro changed completely after a first half dominated by Leinster, as the hosts rallied through tries from Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway but with 10 minutes remaining, the eastern province landed the killer blow.

Jordan Larmour gathered Keatley’s up-and-under uncontested and from absolutely nothing produced a score of outstanding individual brilliance, streaking clear from 60 yards, to end Munster’s fight and send the locals heading for the exits.

The 20-year-old fullback firstly evaded Alex Wootton’s tackle and then put Rory Scannell on his ass with a glorious step inside. There was still more to do, but Keatley was the next to be embarrassed, as Larmour dropped the shoulder and then showed his explosive pace to tear away from Simon Zebo’s desperate attempts to bring him down.

Conway went over in the corner to bring Munster within 10 again but this was Leinster’s day and Cullen’s men have now won five of the last six meetings between the provincial rivals. It’s hard to think of a more impressive or authoritative one than this.

For Munster, it was the ultimate European hangover as a nightmare first half left them with too much to do and this defeat — their first in seven games — serves as a reality check for Johann van Graan and his squad after those momentous victories over the Leicester Tigers.

Jordan Larmour with Ian Keatley Larmour darts past Keatley to score the match-winning try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster, on the other hand, brought huge energy to the contest right from the off and Cullen’s ‘second string’ outfit were quick to capitalise on Munster’s sloppy and inaccurate start as tries from Dan Leavy and Robbie Henshaw were sandwiched in between a penalty try, which also saw Conway sent to the bin.

As much as Leinster were sharp and relentless in attack and clinical in the opposition 22, Munster’s new defence coach JP Ferreira, who only arrived during the week, must have watched through his hands as the home defence were cut open by the visitors’ explosive backline.

Larmour will grab the headlines but Henshaw, Barry Daly and James Lowe were all superb, while Ross Byrne’s cross-field kick for the opening try set the tone for a near-faultless display from the out-half.

Up front, Leinster were also dominant, particularly in the first half, as Leavy won man of the match with a series of turnovers and a generally abrasive and aggression display in the trenches. His punch of the air and roar of delight when Larmour teared clear pretty much sums up what this means to Leinster and their travelling band of supporters.

The tone for the game was set as early as the first minute. Byrne’s kick off was a little long but Leavy made good ground to get over Wottoon, wrap him up and force a penalty inside the opening minute. Byrne consulted with stand-in skipper Jack McGrath, and between them they made the right decision to go for the posts as the out-half struck it straight and true.

The opening quarter was scrappy and fractured but the visitors just about won every contestable as their energy and work-rate in defence forced Munster into unforced errors and quick ball allowed Jamison Gibson-Park feed willing runners to get over the gain line.

Munster felt Wootton was obstructed in midfield in the build-up to the Leinster’s opening try as Larmour broke through but they could have few complaints. The visitors recycled in the 22 to move it from right to left, Byrne showed vision and poise to pick the unmarked Leavy out in the far corner with a measured cross-field kick and the flanker had the simplest of tasks. 10-0.

Before Munster could even muster a meaningful, or structured, period of possession they found themselves further behind, as another infringement at the breakdown gave Byrne the chance to extend Leinster’s lead — both on the scoreboard and in pretty much every facet of play.

Jack Conan Jack Conan celebrates a Leinster turnover. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

‘Wake up, Munster’, came a desperate cry from the stands and those on the pitch briefly obliged. Keatley’s chip-and-chase got his side in behind the wall of blue shirts for the first time and Wootton then carried down the left wing, deftly offloading inside to keep the move alive as he was being dragged into touch.

In a rare moment of Munster ingenuity, Conor Murray was lifted at the back of the lineout to set the rolling maul in motion and when Leinster had scrambled to drag it down metres from the line, the scrum-half spotted the gap and sniped over between Gibson-Park and Leavy from close range.

But the initial fightback lasted all of three minutes.

Byrne’s kick into space set Lowe and Conway away in a foot race and when the Munster fullback dragged the Kiwi down as he went to gather and score, Nigel Owens had no option but to award the penalty try and send Conway to the bin for 10 to rub more salt in Munster wounds.

It was only to get worse. Wootton’s chase was good but even when Larmour spilled in the tackle, Rory O’Loughlin was allowed gather the loose ball off the deck and run straight through, exposing huge holes in the Munster defence. O’Loughlin carried up towards the 22 and had Daly in support, who who in turn freed Henshaw to run in a simply superb counter-attacking try. 27-5 and Thomond was stunned.

The frustration only added to when Keatley, so composed in everything he did in recent weeks, was guilty of kicking the ball dead when the hosts had turned down three points in front of the posts.

It pretty much summed up Munster’s first-half showing, but whatever was said within the four walls of the home dressing room at the break seemed to work. A pity it came 40 minutes late from van Graan’s point of view.

The complexion of the game immediately changed as Munster’s forwards began to gain the upper hand at the breakdown and the hosts showed far more aggression and fight to unsettle Leinster and force them into making the mistakes.


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Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander both grew into the contest, driving the home side forward, and when Devin Toner was penalised for a reckless shoulder charge, Keatley kicked for the corner to pin Leinster back deep inside their own 22.

Andrew Conway with Jordi Murphy Andrew Conway scored two tries on his return from injury. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Leinster scrambled in defence but the pressure eventually paid off as Keatley darted in between O’Loughlin and Henshaw to make it a seven-pointer and give his side a much-needed lifeline.

The helter-skelter nature of proceedings continued at pace, and the comeback gathered further momentum three minutes later. Scannell’s long, looping pass exposed Leinster on this near touchline and Conway weaved in and out of the tackles to slalom over in the corner. Keatley nailed the conversion to make it 19-27.

Game on, and this place was rocking.

But Larmour’s moment of genius — described as one of the best tries he has ever seen by Cullen — sucked the life out of Munster and settled this topsy-turvy contest definitively in Leinster’s favour, who now sit top of Conference B.

Underdogs? Not a bit of it. Leinster are on a roll and they’ll take some stopping.

Munster scorers:
Tries: Conor Murray, Ian Keatley, Andrew Conway [2]
Conversions: Ian Keatley [2 from 3], JJ Hanrahan [0 from 1]
Leinster scorers:Tries: Dan Leavy, penalty try, Robbie Henshaw, Jordan Larmour
Penalties: Ross Byrne [2 from 2]
Conversions: Ross Byrne [3 from 3]

MUNSTER: 15. Andrew Conway, 14. Darren Sweetnam (Simon Zebo 46’), 13. Sammy Arnold, 12. Rory Scannell, 11. Alex Wootton, 10. Ian Keatley (JJ Hanrahan 72’), 9. Conor Murray (Duncan Williams 75’); 1. Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin 62’), 2. Kevin O’Byrne (Niall Scannell 46’), 3. Stephen Archer (John Ryan 62’), 4. Jean Kleyn, 5. Billy Holland (Darren O’Shea 75’), 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain), 7. Tommy O’Donnell (Jack O’Donoghue 61’), 8. CJ Stander.

LEINSTER: 15. Jordan Larmour, 14. Barry Daly (Noel Reid 58’), 13. Rory O’Loughlin, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. James Lowe, 10. Ross Byrne, 9. Jamison Gibson-Park (Nick McCarthy 75’); 1. Jack McGrath (captain) (Ed Byrne 40’), 2. James Tracy (Richardt Strauss 66’), 3. Michael Bent (Tadhg Furlong 47’), 4. Devin Toner, 5. James Ryan (Mick Kearney 47’), 6. Jordi Murphy (Josh van der Flier 66’), 7. Dan Leavy, 8. Jack Conan.

Referee: Nigel Owens.

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Ryan Bailey

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