July 19, 2024

Match Report – Munster 3 – 9 Leinster

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Harry Byrne landed three penalties as Leinster ground out victory at Munster in the annual St Stephen’s Day derby at Thomond Park, as incessant rainfall and strong winds made it difficult for both sides to produce meaningful passages of play; Jack Crowley kicked Munster’s points

Last Updated: 26/12/23 10:15pm

Played in torrential rain and blustery conditions, Leinster claimed victory over Munster in Limerick

Played in torrential rain and blustery conditions, Leinster claimed victory over Munster in Limerick

A night of atrocious conditions at Thomond Park saw Leinster claim a tight 9-3 St Stephen’s Day derby victory over Munster, as both sides struggled to produce passages of play in torrential rain and gale-force wind. 

Leinster fly-half Harry Byrne kicked three penalties to Jack Crowley’s one for Munster, but the two 10s missed further efforts in devilishly tough nights for No 10s and 9s with the boot.

Having defended superbly playing into the worst of conditions during the first period, Munster failed to take advantage of the opportunities that came their way in the second half, as a faltering lineout ruled out any possibility of a morale-boosting win, leaving them to bank a losing bonus-point.

Head coach Graham Rowntree cut a frustrated figure at full-time, and will be concerned by three more injuries picked up to important players: hooker Diarmuid Barron (foot), prop Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder) and lock Edwin Edogbo all departing – the latter a suspected Achilles rupture.

Munster started the contest poorly playing into the stiff breeze, with skipper Barron penalised for sealing off at the very first breakdown of the match in the Munster 22, allowing Byrne to kick Leinster into a very early 3-0 lead.

Both Crowley and Byrne soon saw tactical kicks run dead, but much of the remainder of the half saw Munster struggle to gain territory into a fearsome wind, but defend tremendously to keep Leinster out.

Harry Byrne kicked the opening points of the contest off the tee

Harry Byrne kicked the opening points of the contest off the tee

Thomas Ahern stole two Leinster lineouts, Jack O’Donoghue stole another, Oli Jager forced a scrum penalty for Munster, while Simon Zebo made a superb last-ditch tackle on Luke McGrath to force a knock-on.

Just prior to that, Byrne had kicked Leinster 6-0 up in the 16th minute after Andrew Porter had forced a breakdown penalty, but Munster’s one true chance of the half saw scrum-half Craig Casey just put a foot in touch as he broke down the touchline after centre Alex Nankivell had made a powerful burst into the Leinster 22.

With Munster supporters and players frustrated not to be getting more in the way of decisions from referee Andrew Brace, it was the home side who would next fall foul, as Casey was sin-binned for lifting Jordan Larmour above the horizontal in a tackle which forced a forward pass.

Leinster kicked to the corner seeking blood, but Munster’s maul defence was magnificent to stop a huge Leinster drive containing the entire forward pack and some backs, forcing the ball unplayable and a turnover.

Nankivell soon won a breakdown penalty to relieve more pressure, and despite the loss of their scrum-half for 10 minutes and playing into a gale, Munster had restricted Leinster to 6-0 by the break.

Simon Zebo produced a superb tackle on Luke McGrath to deny Leinster in the first half

Simon Zebo produced a superb tackle on Luke McGrath to deny Leinster in the first half

Munster were onto the front foot straight away in the second half, with an inspired Zebo coming to the fore before a penalty at the breakdown saw the hosts kick into the corner. When Leinster infringed at the ensuing maul, Munster called for the kicking tee, but Crowley hooked poorly wide.

A scrum penalty saw Crowley land his next effort off the tee from over 40 metres out for 6-3, but with Munster starting to believe, a costly few moments first saw Crowley miss touch with a penalty kick from hand, followed by prop Jeremy Loughman being penalised for a side clearout.

Jack Crowley landed Munster's only points, as they failed to take further chances

Jack Crowley landed Munster’s only points, as they failed to take further chances

Leinster lock Joe McCarthy forced a breakdown penalty win in the next passage, though, only for Byrne to miss off the outside of the post just past the hour-mark.

The wind soon held up a Crowley cross-field kick that looked destined to land perfectly for wing Shane Daly to score, while a counter-ruck turnover provided Byrne another chance off the tee down the other end within a few minutes, only for him to miss again – a far more straightforward kick this time too.

Byrne missed two further kicks in the second half for Leinster

Byrne missed two further kicks in the second half for Leinster

A Gavin Coombes breakdown penalty win handed Munster a big chance, but having turned down a shot for the posts from 45 metres out in favour of a kick to the corner, the consequent lineout was spilled and Leinster could clear.

That significant error proved the first of three lineout losses in a row for Munster, and with the scrum starting to struggle, replacement scrum-half Paddy Patterson then kicked out on the full.

After Loughman was penalised (and sin-binned) for offside, a scrum penalty saw Byrne register the final points with the last kick of the contest, as Munster collected a losing bonus-point from a no doubt frustrating night.





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