Leinster 27 Munster 25
LEINSTER claimed the bragging rights in this most surreal of games at the Aviva.
Chris Farrell put a man of the match performance for the Reds but he had to settle for a bonus point for his side in a courageous display by Johann van Graan’s side.
It has been 175 days since Munster played rugby but they looked the fresher of the two teams in a topsy-turvy game.
Both sides score three tries and while it was far from a perfect game if you take into consideration the break both sides had, then the quality was quite high.
Munster’s cause wasn’t helped by the early loss of new signing RG Synman and Ireland international Dave Kilcoyne, but their replacements Jean Kleyn and Jeremy Loughman filled in admirably.
Munster face Connacht next weekend in a must-win game and the late conversion miss from JJ Hanrahan could turn out to be costly with the Reds looking at a return visit to Dublin in two weeks to face Leinster again.
It was a pity that the miss marred the Kerryman’s performance as everything else he touched turned out perfectly.
The sin-binning of Devin Toner gave Munster a way back into the game and few would have grumbled if they had finished off the job.
There were plenty of positives to come out of this game from set-piece from Munster and they certainly won’t worry about facing Leinster again in a fortnight.
The Reds back three were electric with Cork’s Shane Daly looking comfortable on the ball at full-back – in for the injured Mike Haley - while the two outside him were the try-scorers with Andrew Conway getting a brace against his old team and Keith Earls showing great pace to finish Munster’s third.
Munster will also be happy with a relatively low penalty count and will be looking to push on for next week and tighten up in defence to prevent a repeat of the score from James Lowe.
Conway opened the scoring for Munster with his 43rd try for Munster after Chris Farrell created the hole that Conway finished off with aplomb. JJ Hanrahan added the extras to make it 7-0 as Munster made an early statement to losing two of their players after seven minutes. Dave Kilcoyne and new signing RG Synman both limped out of the action.
The lead was short-lived as Munster paid the full price off a ‘cheap shot’ penalty by Damien De Allende on Johnny Sexton.
Leinster went for the line and rolled it over the line with Cian Healy touching down and Sexton converting.
They were level again by the half-hour mark with Hanrahan and Sexton exchanging penalties.
With five minutes to the interval, Hanrahan put his side back in front but it was the Blues ho lead at half time when Garry Ringrose dived over to touch down a beautiful kick pass by Robbie Henshaw.
Sexton added the extras to put Leinster 17-13 ahead and Munster’s nemesis in these derby games James Low showed incredible pace to score a try in the corner and put Leinster into a 24-13 lead.
Munster didn’t drop the pace and Devin Toner’s yellow carding certainly helped the Reds cause.
They were back in the game with 15 minutes to go when Keith Earls showed his finishing power to touch down in the corner with Hanrahan converting to leave the score at 24-20.
Sub Ross Byrne added a penalty to extend Leinster’s lead to seven with 10 minutes to go before Conway crashed over in the corner.
Earls scored Munster’s final try but Hanrahan failed to convert to leave it at 27-25.
Scorers for Leinster: Tries: C Healy, G Ringrose, J Lowe; cons: J Sexton; pens: J Sexton, R Byrne.
Munster: Tries A Conway (2); cons JJ Hanrahan (2); pens: JJ Hanrahan (2).
LEINSTER: J Larmour, D Kearney, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe, J Sexton (c), L McGrath, C Healy, R Kelleher, A Porter, R Baird, S Fardy, C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: S Cronin, E Byrne, M Bent, W Connors, J Gibson Park, R Byrne, M Deegan.
MUNSTER: S Daly, A Conway, C Farrell, D de Allende, K Earls, JJ Hanrahan, C Murray, D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, S Archer, RG Snyman, B Holland, P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: R Marshall for Scannell, J Loughman for Kilcoyne, J Kleyn for Synman (7 inj), J Ryan for Archer, C Cloete for O’Donnell, C Casey for Murray.
Referee: Andrew Brace (IFRU)