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Larmour's late try proves decisive as Leinster beat Munster yet again

Leinster win 13-10 at Thomond Park. Johnny Sexton was taken off in the second half.

Tadhg Beirne scores the opening try.
Tadhg Beirne scores the opening try.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster 10

Leinster 13

THE FORECAST WAS for snow. Instead it was a different kind of storm that Leinster survived as they made it nine wins out of 10 against Munster, coming from 10 points down in the first half to win this game through sheer doggedness and unbreakable belief.

Key to the victory was Jordan Larmour’s 70th minute try, a fine score, created by Ross Byrne and Hugo Keenan – but there were other decisive factors, none more than the moments at the end of the first-half when JJ Hanrahan’s long-range penalty struck the upright, whereupon Leinster recovered possession, mounted a final attack of their own and ended up scoring a penalty to swing the momentum of the game their way.

They’d profit again from a poor miss from Hanrahan in the second-half, and then, when a piece of creativity was needed, they had the players to provide it, Larmour getting the try after Byrne had delivered a superb grubber kick.

For Munster, there will be regrets. This is their bitterest rivalry. Even when there is next to nothing at stake, everything is at stake.

They were good for periods but too often in this fixture, they have come up painfully short. You can add this chapter to their recent chronicles.

Still, their early energy and intensity were high, as you would expect. They won a fifth minute penalty just inside the Leinster half, which Hanrahan nailed, precisely the start they were looking for. Things would get better. A scrum penalty, James Cronin credited for winning it, was awarded on half-way, shortly after Hanrahan’s kick. This time he kicked to the corner.

And their ambition was rewarded with a Tadhg Beirne try. This was well done, well executed. A move that contained a succession of phases was assisted, mid-move, by a subtle pass from Beirne that injected momentum at a crucial time. Thirty seconds later, Beirne crashed across the line, although it required Joy Neville’s assistance in the TMO box to confirm that he’d touched it down.

As Hanrahan converted, the scoreboard ticked to a 10-0 lead, something that, four months ago, after that drab Pro14 semi-final, you would never have imagined.

All the early momentum was with Munster, best summed up by a moment at the midway point of the half when Luke McGrath tried a kick over the top, his intentions read by Shane Daly, who returned the ball with interest, to the extent that Sean Cronin was throwing into a line-out deep inside his own 22.  

What Leinster needed was a rhythm, but the Munster game plan prevented them from ever finding it. Eventually, after 25 minutes, they troubled the scorers, Sexton slotting over a penalty from straight in front of the posts, after a multi-phased attack saw them recycle quick ball, exposing their hosts at the breakdown.

Suddenly it was 10-3 and you wondered how Munster would react to this minor setback. After all, until this point, they’d controlled possession, had coped with Sexton’s early box-

jordan-larmour-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try Jordan Larmour celebrates his winning try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

kicking strategy, Mike Haley looked especially assured.

Then, Haley spilled one, and the ball fell to Garry Ringrose, who skipped infield, evaded Cronin’s despairing dive, saw that he was entering heavy traffic, so reacted accordingly by kicking forward, leaving Keith Earls with no option but to bring the ball into his end-goal area and concede a five-metre scrum.

At this scrum, Andrew Porter took his revenge out on Cronin. Scrum penalty awarded, Sexton went to the corner.

No joy. A second penalty, this time at the breakdown, saw Sexton opt for a five-metre scrum but despite Doris’ drive, Munster survived, Beirne stopping Leinster on the Munster goal line, a piece of resistance that Munster celebrated more wildly than when their big second row had scored at the other end, 26 minutes earlier.

There and then, you’d have guessed that Leinster could not wait until half-time to hear what Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster had to say, yet just before the break, their championship mentality became strikingly evident in the game’s defining minutes.

First, Hanrahan’s long-range penalty rebounded off the post. First to react was Robbie Henshaw who was illegally taken out by Rhys Marshall. Penalty, Leinster.

Any other team would have settled for a half-time cuppa at this stage, instead Leinster kicked to touch, secured their own ball from the line-out and drove right at Munster, gaining 30 metres and another penalty, this one within Sexton’s range. He banged it over and instead of staring at a 10-point half-time deficit, the champions had instead cut the gap to 10-6.

jj-hanrahan-converts-the-opening-penalty JJ Hanrahan gets the opening kick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The second-half began at a ferocious pace, Munster opting for a pick-and-go strategy in their first attack, Gavin Coombes carrying three times in the move, Tadhg Beirne and Chris Farrell having additional contributions, the upshot being that Hanrahan had another kick at the posts with 45.33 on the clock.

Somehow he missed and only he can explain why.

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And again, we wondered what psychological impact this would have.

The immediate answer was minimal. From the resulting 22, Munster reclaimed possession, allowing Murray to box-kick and Daly to continual his aerial dominance over Larmour.

Yet while all these little victories were good for morale, the scoreboard remained static – indeed, it was Leinster who looked likelier to get the first score of the second half when they had a five-metre scrum on 53 minutes.

Munster survived, not just that but also Leinster’s follow-up attack, Beirne, yet again, stealing possession on his own goal-line.

It looked then that there was nothing he, nor Munster, could do about Larmour’s 70th minute try, though. Stemming from the set-piece, Doris gathered Ronan Kelleher’s throw, and better again, provided McGrath with quick ball.

Things opened up from there, Josh van der Flier appearing in midfield to inject pace to proceedings, Ross Byrne taking up the mantle, sensing space in the backfield as Haley and Daly pushed up.

Byrne’s kick was good, the bounce was favourable and within a matter of seconds, Munster had gone from defending a line-out in relatively safe territory to conceding a try, Larmour the scorer, after he gathered Keenan’s pass before touching down.

The conversion – taken by Byrne who had come on as a second-half replacement for Sexton, who had a slight hamstring twinge – gave Leinster a 13-10 lead.

Ten minutes remained. There was time for Munster to come back – but Leinster’s choice to go with a 6/2 split on their bench proved decisive. They had the extra energy for the final scrap. They also, yet again, had a win in this derby.

Munster scorers:

Tries: Beirne

Conversions: Hanrahan (1/1)

Penalties: Hanrahan (1/3)

Leinster scorers:

TriesLarmour 

Conversions: Byrne (1/1)

Penalties Sexton (2/2)

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan (Ben Healy ’53), Conor Murray (Craig Casey 73′); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne 53′), Rhys Marshall (Niall Scannell ’49), John Ryan (Stephen Archer 53′); Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Gavin Coombes (Jack O’Donoghue ’64), Peter O’Mahony (Fineen Wycherley ’66), CJ Stander.

Replacements not used: Rory Scannell.

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Jimmy O’Brien (Jamison Gibson-Park 58′); Johnny Sexton (Ross Byrne 53′), Luke McGrath; Cian Healy (Ed Byrne 53′), Seán Cronin (Rónan Kelleher ’53), Andrew Porter; Scott Fardy (Ross Molony 64′), James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock (Jack Conan 68′), Will Connors (Josh van der Flier 59′), Caelan Doris.

Replacements not used: Tom Clarkson

Referee: Andrew Brace.

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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