Leinster win hands second place to Stormers
MATCH REPORT: Leinster’s second-string selection handed Munster a rude awakening in Dublin on Saturday – a humbling 35-25 win in their Round 18 United Rugby Championship match.
The result at Lansdowne Road means Munster will travel to Ulster in the quarterfinals, after slipping out of the top four.
Leinster’s play-off opponents will be Glasgow Warriors.
It also means South Africa’s Stormers finish second in their debut year in Europe and the Bulls fourth.
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Four tries in 22 minutes – with Scott Penny’s opener coming inside 90 seconds – made for a highly entertaining first half which ended 15-12 in the table toppers’ favour.
Penny and Cormac Foley crossed for the hosts, who rotated their squad ahead of next week’s Champions Cup final, while Munster had back-to-back scores from Jack O’Donoghue and Mike Haley.
An opportunist Conor Murray try moved Munster a step closer to finishing second overall, but Leinster roared back with a penalty try – Niall Scannell saw yellow for collapsing a maul – and a rapid Rory O’Loughlin effort.
Ross Byrne’s 70th-minute penalty rounded off the scoring for Leinster, who have a home quarter-final against Glasgow Warriors to look forward to.
Returning to the scene of their heartbreaking European exit, Johann van Graan’s men were stunned when Ciaran Frawley’s cross-field kick played in Penny in the right corner.
After flyhalf Byrne tagged on a penalty for 8-0, Munster’s stand-in captain O’Donoghue clawed back five points with an excellent finish out wide from a long Keith Earls pass.
Ever-alert fullback Haley sniped in under the posts in the 16th minute, making it a quick-fire double for the visitors.
Jordan Larmour’s electric run inspired Leinster’s second try, finished by scrum-half Foley following Frawley’s midfield break. Byrne’s boot made it 15-12.
However, with Leinster winger Rob Russell binned for a deliberate knock-on, Murray scooped up a breaking ball from a Haley bomb for a gift of a score.
Joey Carbery converted and then cancelled out a Byrne penalty, only for Leinster to lift their game.
Foley’s brilliant 50:22 kick led to the penalty try, with Munster hooker Scannell also seeing yellow.
O’Loughlin followed up with a terrific bonus-point effort, the initial damage caused again by Larmour. Byrne’s conversion made it a 10-point game.
Carbery chipped away with his second penalty, yet a long-range strike from Byrne settled the issue with Leinster’s defence on top late on.
Player of the match
Larmour lit up this interprovincial derby with his dancing feet, making three outstanding runs to carve open the Munster defence.
He was the obvious choice for the URC Player of the Match medal, with Ryan Baird not far behind.
Haley and Chris Farrell had strong performances for Munster.
Play of the match
Scrumhalf Foley’s first senior try for Leinster was an absolute beauty.
The fit-again Larmour launched a superb counter-attack up to halfway, Jamie Osborne sent Frawley slicing through midfield and he laid off for Foley to finish off despite Haley’s committed chase.
Tries: Penny, Foley, O’Loughlin, Penalty try
Cons: Byrne 2, penalty try does not require a conversion
Pens: Byrne 3
Tries: O’Donoghue, Haley, Murray
Cons: Carbery 2
Pens: Carbery 2
Yellow cards: Rob Russell (Leinster, 38 – cynical foul, slapping the ball down), Niall Scannell (Munster, 51 – cynical foul, illegally collapsing maul;)
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Rob Russell, 13 Jamie Osborne, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Rory O’Loughlin, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Cormac Foley, 8 Max Deegan, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Ryan Baird, 5 Josh Murphy, 4 Joe McCarthy, 3 Thomas Clarkson, 2 Seán Cronin, 1 Ed Byrne (captain).
Replacements: 16 John McKee, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Cian Healy, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Alex Soroka, 21 Ben Murphy, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Adam Byrne.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 7 Alex Kendellen, 6 Fineen Wycherley, 5 Thomas Ahern, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Josh Wycherley.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Jack Daly, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Rory Scannell.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland), Oisin Quinn (Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
* Additional reporting by @URCOfficial