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Dublin: 9°C Thursday 25 February 2021
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Come in and take a seat by the fire, we’re all about to watch what promises to be the most hotly-contested Munster v Leinster clash in quite some time. It should be enough to keep the hardy night’s frost at bay for a while.

Kick-off in Limerick isn’t until 19.35 (on eir Sport), so you’ve time to entertain the dog, feed the kids and treat yourself (or whatever combination suits you best) before we get underway.

The snow is falling in Limerick, here are the 46 players who will brave the elements in Thomond this evening.

Munster:

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

1. James Cronin
2. Rhys Marshall
3. John Ryan
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Gavin Coombes
7. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Niall Scannell
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Stephen Archer
19. Fineen Wycherley
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Craig Casey
22. Ben Healy
23 Rory Scannell 

Leinster:

15. Hugo Keenan 
14. Jordan Larmour
13. Garry Ringrose
12. Robbie Henshaw 
11. Jimmy O’Brien 
10. Johnny Sexton (captain)
9. Luke McGrath 

1. Cian Healy
2. Sean Cronin
3. Andrew Porter 
4. Scott Fardy 
5. James Ryan
6. Rhys Ruddock 
7. Will Connors 
8. Caelan Doris

Replacements:

16. Rónan Kelleher 
17. Ed Byrne
18. Thomas Clarkson 
19. Ross Molony 
20. Jack Conan 
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ross Byrne
23. Josh van der Flier

Referee: Andrew Brace [IRFU].

Scenes!

johnny-sexton-on-the-pitch-ahead-of-the-game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Johnny Sexton sampling the atmosphere in a freezing Thomond Park before kick off.

KICK-OFF: We are underway in Limerick. The snow appears to have eased for now.

3 MINS: Mike Haley comes down with a great take from a Luke McGrath box. Conor Murray looks to play a phase, but then returns fire.

An error gives Munster back possession and Rhys Ruddock is penalised on the ground around halfway.

Kicking duels will be huge on an evening like this and Hanrahan has a chance to give Munster a lead with his first off the tee.

Flag

PENALTY! Munster 3 Leinster 0 (Hanrahan ’5)

Beautiful strike from the Kerryman with the wind at his back, clears the posts from close on 50 metres.

7 mins: Munster’s pack look to have an edge in the early scrummages here. John Ryan has them marching forward, but a re-set is called by Andrew Brace.

10 mins: The penalty does come for Munster on the second round. It’s a little further out than Hanrahan’s first penalty, so he boots into the Leinster 22.

Coombes, Beirne and DeAllende make big carries as Munster lay siege to the Leinster line. Scott Fardy comes up with a valuable hit on the Springbok, but Beirne’s second carry looks to have gotten over the line.

We’re with the TMO to check.

TRY! Munster 10 Leinster 0 (Beirne ’12)

With a little help from Peter O’Mahony and Jean Kleyn, Beirne gets under the posts. Huge early lead for Munster to build on.

18 mins: The little wins just keep coming for Munster. A long raking touchfinder down the left flank bounces beyond Sexton and into touch 10 metres out.

Cronin nails his darts, but the clearance only goes back to the 22 and the hosts can go again.

20 mins: There’s a ebb to the balance in this game, Leinster win back two consecutive Munster line-outs to safely exit their third of the field.

James Cronin then is penalised for a high tackle and the play is all the way back in the Munster third of the pitch.

22 mins: Leinster looked to be building a head of steam and rhythm as they worked through 11 good phases. James Cronin hits Cian Healy low, with a hint of no-arms, and a turnover follows.

Haley boots clear, but there’s far too much on it and it flies out on the full.

Leinster can go again from just outside the 22.

PENALTY! Munster 10 Leinster 3 (Sexton ’25)

Munster are clocking up their tackle count now as Leinster get through another probing set of phases that run into double figures. The penalty comes in front of the posts, meat and drink for Sexton.

29 mins: A moment, or maybe a few moments, of magic from Jordan Larmour there taking up a Mike Haley spill, jinking into space and then grubbering forward towards the try-line just when tacklers arrived.

Keith Earls beat him to the loose ball, but the Moyross man had no option but to carry over his own line.

Scrum V, blue.

31 mins: Henshaw and Ryan make big carries before Sexton takes an advantage call and looks to hit a cross-field kick.

It’s overcooked, not the first time he has looked frustrated with his boot tonight, but he can go back and nudge the ball out for a line-out.

34 mins: Leinster pile on the pressure after an iffy line-out. The penalty comes again as Beirne and Cronin are offside for Munster and this time Leinster will opt for a scrum.

Cronin is walking a very fine line at this stage. Another offence and you’d expect to see him binned.

36 mins: Doris picks from the base of the scrum. The cavalry come and try to bundle him over the whitewash, but – a huge moment in this half – as Rhys Marshall and Tadhg Beirne come up with a vital turnover penalty.

Tensions coming to the boil now approaching the break, Stander and Fardy – two mild mannered fellas outside the arena – were seen scrapping and grappling around the fringe of a ruck.

38 mins: Interesting set play attempted by Munster there as they went for Murray on the short side, but he instantly switched back to Hanrahan for a cross-field kick towards Shane Daly on the left.

It wasn’t the most accurate attempt though and Jordan Larmour swept up.

39 mins: Leinster kick that possession back to Munster and they play the phases until Caelan Doris gives away a cheap penalty for strolling around the wrong side of a ruck.

Hanrahan takes aim from 45-odd metres, but the effort cracks the post.

Leinster are very happy to play and attack with the clock in the red. They force a penalty just inside halfway. Sexton will take on the three-pointer…

The teams are back out in Thomond Park, we’re all set for Sexton to kick off the second half.

41 mins: Horrible start for Jordan Larmour, who loses his bearings and lets a high ball bounce off him and into touch.

It’s not just the Thomond Crowd that puts off players watching Garryowens come down then.

44 mins: Munster building and building pressure with close-in carries that have been inching them closer to the try-line.

Leinster do enough to suffocate the momentum and concede a penalty. Hanrahan should nail this to extend the lead, of greater concern to Munster will be the sight of Peter O’Mahony struggling with an injury for a stretch of those phases.

Well now, Hanrahan has blazed the penalty right of the posts. That was a gimme three-pointer. Munster will hope it doesn’t prove costly in this tight contest.

50 mins: Peter O’Mahony is still plugging away despite the knock out there, but Rhys Marshall has been called ashore with Niall Scannell sent in to add some oomph.

52 mins: Another effective chip through from Larmour there as he forces an error from Mike Haley 10 metres out.  Between the spill and arriving pressure, the fullback is forced over his own line and Leinster will have a second five-metre attacking scrum in this game.

As Munster set their defence, they send in Ben Healy to take over from JJ Hanrahan at out-half. The missed kick clearly was costly for the elder 10.

56 mins: That man Tadhg Beirne comes up with the good again!

The Kildare man gets 14 slaps on the torso from team-mates as he forces another turnover penalty to thwart Leinster on the verge of the try-line.

Ben Healy produces a massive clearing penalty to take play 40 metres from the line.

59 mins: Jimmy O’Brien has been forced off injury for Leinster and the drawback to the 6-2 bench split comes into play as they send Jamison Gibson-Park on in his place and a scrum-half will be stuck out on the wing for the remainder.

Mike Haley takes advantage of the back three reshuffle to bomb a huge touch-finder into the left corner of the field.

Munster doing a great job of keeping Leinster under the pump, but they will need to score to seal a win tonight.

Johnny Sexton sitting glumly on the bench after being replaced is all the image you need to tell you how effective Munster have been so far tonight.

The Ireland captain has been thwarted at every turn and the attack he runs was unable to produce a try.

67 mins: Peter O’Mahony is finally called ashore, with Fineen Wycherly introduced after Conor Murray punches a lovely kick around the corner to make Leinster play out of their 22 again.

Sexton  was shaking his head on the bench a few minutes ago, but it’s his replacement Ross Byrne who produces something out of nothing to give Leinster the lead here.

Off a line-out play that moves wide quickly, Byrne chips through a gap for Keenan to regather. He passes to Larmour, who has to show his rapid footwork to evade a tackle and finish.

Byrne adds the conversion and suddenly Leinster are in the driver’s seat.

Munster 10 Leinster 13

73 mins: It was all going so well for so long for Munster and now even the brilliant Tadhg Beirne has coughed up a spill that sucks a gallon of momentum away from the Reds.

74 mins: Conor Murray now joins Peter O’Mahony on the sideline, so it’s down to Craig Casey and Ben Healy to lead Munster to a result in the closing minutes.

78 mins:  Leinster’s defence standing firm, giving up inches but barely anything more to Munster’s midfield carries. Then, the most decorated midfielder on show, Damien De Allende knocks on in contact and Leinster can see out the clock with a scrum and a few phases.

A seriously impressive win in the end from Leinster. They looked beaten, but they kept clinging on in there and Munster were unable to pull away. They failed to score in the second half, and there was no better opportunity than JJ Hanrahan’s penalty that was blasted right of the posts.

There are other reasons they lost tonight, but to challenge at the top end of the game, those are chances that simply must be taken.

That’s all from the live coverage this evening, we’ll have a full match report and lots of reaction to come from Thomond tonight and in the days ahead.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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