Munster 19 Leinster 20
A missed touchline conversion by Joey Carbery proved to be the difference between victory and defeat for Munster in a festive URC derby cracker at Thomond Park on Monday night.
Leinster outhalf Ross Byrne opened the scoring in the third minute from a 45m penalty after his opposite number Carbery had taken an extremely poor option in hoisting a Garryowen from inside his own 22, and a Munster player had gotten stuck on the wrong side of the next ruck.
Byrne doubled the score in the 20th minute, after Conor Murray has been pinned for not rolling away at the back of a ruck, but the score was somewhat against the run of play, given Munster had enjoyed a lot of possession up to that point.
Carbery missed a penalty attempt from 43m in the 23rd minute after Munster tight head John Ryan had Andrew Porter in all sorts of trouble at scrum time, but in the 31st minute Munster got up and running with number eight Gavin Coombes getting his trademark try, as he pirouetted over from close range, with Carbery adding the extras, to give Munster the lead.
After conceding the first two scores the Munster supporters would have been worried, but with Peter O’Mahony leading from the front with some inspirational turnovers Munster’s tails were up now, although Byrne missed an opportunity to give the visitors the lead right on the half time whistle, from a penalty conceded by O’Mahony, but he sliced his attempt to the right, to ensure Munster deservedly led 7-6 at the break.
The second half started brilliantly from a Munster perspective with the Munster maul obliterating the Leinster pack off an attacking lineout, to such an extent that referee Chris Busby immediately awarded a penalty to the home side in the 42rd minute, while also showing number eight Max Deegan a yellow card.
Credit to Leinster, as they responded brilliantly while down a man, forcing a number of penalties close to the Munster line and were rewarded when Dan Sheehan skilfully popped to Scott Penny to cross in the 38th minute, and in the 54th minute Sheehan burrowed over himself, from a quick tap, after Munster had been harshly penalised near their line.
In previous years Munster might have folded in such circumstances, but they took those tries on the chin and came back with a superb one of their own.
Gavin Coombes was very much to the fore, making multiple carries, but was backed up by big carries by the likes of Jack O’Donoghue and Romain Salanoa, and with Craig Casey throwing bullets Leinster couldn’t resist for long, with Casey sending a huge looping pass out wide to Patrick Campbell and the young winger had the simple task of dotting down in the right corner for the try in the 64th minute.
Unfortunately, Carbery missed the conversion to leave Munster trailing by a point, and Leinster controlled proceedings for the last quarter of an hour to see out a hard-won victory.
Carbery (1 con), Coombes (1 try), Campbell (1 try), penalty try.
R Byrne (2 pens, 2 cons), Penny and Sheehan (1 try each).
Daly, Nash, Frisch, Crowley, Earls, Carbery, Murray, Kilcoyne, N Scannell, Ryan, Kleyn, Beirne, O'Donoghue, O'Mahony (c), Coombes.
Casey for Murray (51), Barron and Campbell for N Scannell and Earls (60), Wycherley and Salanoa for Kilcoyne and Ryan (62), R Scannell for Carbery (64), Kendellen for O’Mahony (66), McDonald for Kleyn (72).
Keenan, Larmour, Ringrose (c), Osborne, Lowe, R Byrne, N McCarthy, Porter, Sheehan, Healy, Baird, J McCarthy, Ruddock, Penny, Deegan.
Moloney and McGrath for Baird and McCarthy (50), Conan for Ruddock (55), Abdaladze for Healy (60).
Chris Busby (IRFU)