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CJ Stander attempts to bring down Luke Fitzgerald at Thomond Park.
CJ Stander attempts to bring down Luke Fitzgerald at Thomond Park.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Dominant Munster power three tries past Leinster in Limerick

Anthony Foley’s men were clear and deserved winners at Thomond Park as Leinster struggled to create scores.
Dec 26th 2014, 6:48 PM 7,409 47

Munster 28

Leinster 13

MUNSTER WERE DOMINANT in victory over Leinster at Thomond Park, scoring three tries in an intelligent display against Matt O’Connor’s out-of-sorts team.

The home side employed a kicking game that worked ideally on a cold, windy evening in Limerick, as Leinster struggled badly under the high ball. Munster’s effectiveness in narrow channels was an important factor too, as O’Connor’s side failed to defend convincingly in that area.

Man of the match CJ Stander, Andrew Conway and Dave O’Callaghan all crossed the whitewash for Munster, while the impressive Ian Keatley kicked 13 points and generally outshone his opposite number, Ian Madigan.

Leinster managed a late consolation try through Shane Jennings, but their attacking display was blunt overall. Not until the closing quarter did O’Connor’s side get any real territory, while their phase play was unimaginative.

A sold-out Thomond Park was in-form too, enjoying the focused, aggressive performance from their team.

Leinster’s unease under the high ball was evident from the very first minute, when Andrew Conway rose above Zane Kirchner to win a Munster bomb, before Ian Madigan and Dave Kearney crossed wires after a swirling Ian Keatley garryowen.

The second error saw Kearney dragged into touch, from where Munster drew the Leinster pack into dragging the maul down and Keatley slotted his first penalty attempt of the night with just three minutes gone.

Ian Keatley returns the jersey to CJ Stander after scoring Stander gets his jersey back after scoring a first-half try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

John Ryan’s failure to roll away after a tackle in the Munster 22 allowed Madigan to level the scoreline shortly after, but the home team continued to trouble Matt O’Connor’s men with their clever kicking game.

Keatley combined the bombs with some deft grubbered diagonals in behind the Leinster frontline, while the likes of Tommy O’Donnell and Billy Holland brought impressive physicality up front.

Munster missed two try-scoring opportunities in the first half, but their 17th-minute effort was unstoppable. O’Donnell and co. picked and jammed repeatedly around the fringes close to the Leinster tryline from an initial scrum platform, before a short pass sent the jersey-less CJ Stander diving over to the right of the posts.

Keatley’s conversion was off target, but Munster continued to prosper despite the best efforts of Leinster’s defence. A huge linebreak from Ian Keatley deep inside the Munster half should have led to points as the out-half’s surge helped Anthony Foley’s side into the Leinster 22.

However, O’Connor’s men recovered to win a turnover penalty and went down the other end to get out their own bludgeon close to the tryline. Unlike Munster, they couldn’t convert as Darragh Fanning’s offload attempt was picked off by Felix Jones.

Madigan did get his second penalty soon after though, kicking the three points from the left of the posts after Munster were caught offside from a scrum. Keatley was on target again in the 32nd minute to open the five-point gap back up, punishing Kane Douglas for failing to roll away from his tackle.

Leinster out-half Madigan has an immediate chance to cancel out that Keatley score, as referee Nigel Owens harshly pinged Paddy Butler, on for the injured Robin Copeland, for not releasing after being tackled.

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Andrew Conway tackled by Dave Kearney Dave Kearney gets to grips with Andrew Conway in Limerick. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Madigan was wide, however, and his teammates continued to struggle in the air. Jones’ brilliant kick and gather from inside his own half put Munster on the front foot, eventually leading to a notable overlap inside the Leinster 22.

Denis Hurley just couldn’t get his pass away under intense pressure wide on the right, and again Leinster got over the ball to earn a turnover penalty, going into the break 11-6 down.

Munster enjoyed a strong start to the second half too, the hard-working Conway bursting onto a cleverly-delayed Keatley pass to go through Fanning’s tackle and score Munster’s second try.

An offload from Hurley to Pat Howard had provided momentum at first, before Munster again looked to their narrow pick and jams to make further yardage. The combination to finish was sweeping and Keatley tacked on the conversion.

As in the first half, Leinster struggled to use the ball effectively, highlighted by a 15-phase attack going nowhere close to the Munster 22 with 50 minutes on the clock, Hurley ending the passage with a turnover penalty.

Foley’s charges returned to their narrow game and from one such thrust, Fanning fell on a ball that appeared to have left the ruck. Owens decided otherwise and yellow-carded the Leinster wing for playing the ball.

Keatley’s penalty rubbed salt in the wound and sent Munster into a 21-6 lead. Paddy Butler broke in midfield as Munster’s dominance became pronounced, while BJ Botha won a scrum penalty with his first action off the bench.

Andrew Conway scores a try Andrew Conway powers over for his try in the second half. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

This time, Keatley’s attempt from 48 metres dropped short, but Munster were not discouraged. Again, they went on a thundering narrow attack, ending with replacement flanker Dave O’Callaghan ducking under Douglas’ tackle to score.

Keatley was on target to give Munster a 28-6 advantage that was hard to argue with.

Leinster rallied heading into the final 10 minutes of the clash, building a 20-phase passage of attack to eventually dot down through Shane Jennings, courtesty of an offload from number eight Jack Conan. Madigan’s conversion was accurate for 28-13.

That was to be the extent of their fightback though, as Stander ran in a disallowed try and Munster repelled the final Leinster attack helped by the topless Botha. The home fans went home warmed by an encouraging display from their team.

Munster scorers:

Tries: CJ Stander, Andrew Conway, Dave O’Callaghan

Conversions: Ian Keatley [2 from 3]

Penalties: Ian Keatley [3 from 4]

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Shane Jennings

Conversions: Ian Madigan [1 from 1]

Penalties: Ian Madigan [2 from 3]

MUNSTER: Felix Jones (capt.) (Johne Murphy ’71); Andrew Conway, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley (JJ Hanrahan ’59), Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams (Neil Cronin ’77); John Ryan (Eusebio Guinazu ’64), Duncan Casey (Kevin O’Byrne ’66), Stephen Archer (BJ Botha ’59); Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland; CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell (Dave O’Callaghan ’52), Robin Copeland (Paddy Butler ’27).

LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning (Jimmy Gopperth ’64), Luke Fitzgerald, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss (Aaron Dundon ’71), Tadhg Furlong; Mike McCarthy (Tom Denton ’71), Kane Douglas; Dominic Ryan (Jordi Murphy ’15), Shane Jennings (capt.), Jack Conan.

Replacements not used: Maks Van Dyk, Jamie Hagan, Luke McGrath, Colm O’Shea.

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