Leinster keeps 100 percent record intact in Irish thriller
MATCH REPORT: Leinster scored two tries during Max Deegan’s sin-binning to edge out Munster 20-19 and win the first Christmas inter-provincial derby at Thomond Park in three years.
The one-point win means Leinster kept their 100 percent URC record intact – 10 wins from 10 starts.
Gavin Coombes cancelled out two Ross Byrne penalties with a well-finished 30th-minute try to give Munster a 7-6 half-time lead.
Graham Rowntree’s side mauled through for a penalty try and Deegan’s yellow, only for 14-man Leinster to storm back with tries from Scott Penny and Dan Sheehan, both from tapped penalties.
Munster replacement Patrick Campbell crossed to make it a one-point game, but the United Rugby Championship leaders finished the first half of the season with their 12th straight win in all competitions.
Byrne landed a second-minute penalty for a fast-starting Leinster before Jack Crowley’s turnover penalty kept the Munster try-line intact.
Munster blew their first maul opportunity but despite some good countering from Jean Kleyn and Shane Daly’s elusive running, they ended the opening quarter 6-0 down.
Their captain Peter O’Mahony forced a momentum-changing penalty off a line-out, and Antoine Frisch and Niall Scannell then found holes in the Leinster defence.
Hooker Scannell was stopped short from a tapped penalty, but Coombes twisted his way over from a ruck. Joey Carbery, who had missed an earlier penalty, edged them in front with the conversion.
Leinster, who missed a late penalty through Byrne, suffered a double blow early in the second half. Referee Chris Busby awarded Munster a penalty try, also carding Deegan for collapsing the drive.
Nonetheless, a clever move five metres out saw Penny plunge over for the table toppers and Byrne converted.
Sheehan then drove through two tackles to score in the 52nd minute. Byrne curled over the conversion for a sudden 20-14 lead.
Leinster absorbed a punishing defensive stand, but could not hold out in the 63rd minute when Craig Casey passed wide for Campbell to score in the right corner. Carbery’s crucial conversion fell wide.
Calvin Nash and Campbell combined to foil a likely try for Luke McGrath, and although Munster held Leinster at bay from a maul and a late onslaught, they ended the game in their own 22.
Tries: Coombes, Penalty try, Campbell
Cons: Carbery, penalty try does not require a conversion
Tries: Penny, Sheehan
Cons: Byrne 2
Pens: Byrne 2
Yellow card: Max Deegan (Leinster, 43)
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Jack Crowley, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Patrick Campbell.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Jordan Larmour, 13 Garry Ringrose (captain), 12 Jamie Osborne, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Joe McCarthy, 4 Ryan Baird, 3 Cian Healy, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Andrew Porter.
Replacements: 16 John McKee, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Vakhtang Abdaladze, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Jack Conan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Liam Turner.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland) and Peter Martin (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)