Munster beat Leinster in thriller

Munster 24-23 Leinster, Thomand Park Kick off 7:30pm

Munster finally got one over on their arch rivals Leinster in a pulsating, heart stopping 24-23 victory at Thomand Park this evening. It was left to that man Ronan O Gara to nail a last minute kick to give Munster the win in a game that ebbed and flowed from the first minute to the last.

The game started off at a furious pace and in what was a pulsating first half Ronan O Gara opened the scoring with a penalty after 3 mins after some good play by the Munster forwards. Jonny Sexton levelled the game up with his first points after six minutes. The outhalfs continued to trade penalties as the two packs went toe to toe with each other.

The pivotal moment in the first half came on the 20 minute mark when Shane Horgan, making his 200 appearance for Leinster, finished a try that came straight off the training ground. Started by Jamie Heaslip and Isaac Boss, who fed Gordon D’Arcy who then played a wonderful pass to set Isa Nacewa free. Nacewa then played a superbly timed grubber kick that the onrushing Shane Horgan collected and grounded. Sexton missed the conversation from a tight angle but it put Leinster into a 14 -6 lead.

Munster came back fighting and cut the deficit to five points when O Gara added a penalty after Leinster were penalised for not releasing. That penalty was the catalysis for a good period for Munster led by David Wallace who carried ball with great effect. Munster however was hampered in their attempts to get back into the game as sloppy handling cost them momentum. The binning of Johnny Murphy on the half hour mark also hindered them and allowed Leinster to go in 20-9 to the good.

If the first half was all about Leinster then the second half belonged to Munster. Despite losing their captain Paul O Connell with what looked like a serious knee injury Munster rolled backed the years and produced a performance from their archive. Their second half performance had it all. Pride, passion and a will to win that Leinster could not match.

Led by the magnificent Ronan O Gara, who kicked all but three of Munster’s points the men in red fought back and rattled Leinster. The intensity that Munster played with forced Leinster into making silly errors which allowed O Gara to eat into their lead.

On the hour mark Leinster lost their captain Brian O Driscoll to the bin for holding on in the tackle. That decision gave extra imputes to Munster who stepped up an extra gear who now had the Thomand Park faithful in full voice. They could sense blood and they went after it.

O Gara and Sexton continued to trade penalties in what was turning out to be a kicking master class from both out half’s. It was however Munster who had their tails up and thanks to some incredible carrying from Wallace and Leamy, who were both, outstanding, allowed Munster a lot of go forward ball.

Leinster’s defence was under intense pressure and it was forced into conceding more penalties. There was one nervous moment for Munster supporters as O Gara on 67 mins pulled a kickable penalty wide of the post. You got the feeling that it wasn’t going to be their night. But you can never write them off.

On they came and they hit Leinster with wave after wave of attack. Still the Leinster defence held firm but it was only a matter of time before they conceded again and after 13 phases of play and into the 79 minute they gave away another penalty.

It came down to the coolest man in Limerick to do what he does best. He didn’t disappoint. O Gara nailed it and sent Thomand Park into raptures. For Munster it was their first win in six attempts over Leinster. For Leinster they were beaten but can be proud of the performance they gave tonight.

This was a game that showed everything that was good about Irish rugby. It was a game that will linger long in the memory.

Match tracker – Trevor Keane

80min – F/T

What a game, a great advertisment for rugby in Ireland. It really was a game of two halves with Leinster edging the first but there was only one team in the second half. There will be celebration’s in Limerick tonight. Full report to follow.

81min Ref allows the game restart, Warwick claims. Ball comes to O’Gara who kicks it out of play. Man of the match – O’Gara. Has to be purely for that last kick. All 30 men can hold their heads high. Great game. Leinster get losing bonus point.
80min Earls has been strong last quarter, last play of match, kicks he wins, misses he loses – he gets it
79min Tuitupou did well there with ball in hand. Munster looked to be setting things up for drop goal but decided to attack. Munster power their way forward. advantage being played. Earls has ball, 3m short of the line. Leinster again gave away penalty, ref calls, big decision now, does it kick it, he says yes. Big call. Hard kick.
77min Ref blocks stringer’s pass to O’Gara – loss of momentum there for the men in red. Hines is down with a neck injury, small break – needed. Ref apologies. game will restart with scrum 4 1/2 min to go.
75min another scrappy line out but Leinster win – ball is kicked up field and Munster claim it with Fitzgerald racing into tackle. Decision goes Munster way, another scrum. Jones/Varley off Warwick/Sherry on. 5min to go
73min offside against Leinster, Munster penalty, they run it. Clever kick ahead from Howlett. Munster tackle mcFadden but its illegal and Leinster have penalty
72min President Mary McAleese is in the crowd, does haven’t a red or blue flag with her so hard to tell who she’s supporting, either way hope she is enjoying the match. Sexton meanwhile kicks to touch – line out not straight, scrum in to Munster
70min Rhys Ruddock does well to win the ball back for Leinster – O’Driscoll is back on. 10 min to go. Game is on a knife edge
69min O’Gara misses, rare miss tonight
68min maul dragged down, penalty to Munster
67min Earls, barely heard from him, gets the ball inside the Leinster 22 and chips but Nacewa does well to win it, Earls looked the favourite there
66min Buckley, Murray and Du Preez off Hayes, Stringer and Horan on – strenght in dept
65min Sexton kicks it, that was a good presure kick. Update on O’Connell, he has been taken to hospital for xrays. Horgan off for McFadden
64min Munster give away cheap penalty, chance for Leinster to get first score of second half, 24 minutes in. Sexton to kick
64min Munster tackle Leinster into touch – quick line out to Jones who runs it
62min O’Gara rubs salt into the wounds with a good kick 7 from 7 for O’Gara. Fantastic game and Fantastic atmosphere. Murphy goes off for Munster.
61min Less then 20 minutes to go and its the game could go anyway, Munster have dominated the second half but yet to get that elusive try. O’Driscoll yellow carded for not rolling away, the ref has been very consistent. The crowd let out a mighty roar.
59min Reddan breaks from scrum and passes to Heaslip who is surrounded by 3 Munster players and ball is easily won
58min Reddan comes on for Boss as Healy also makes way – Schmidt obviously has an eye on next weekend. Leinster scrum.
56min Gaps appearing in Leinster back line but Munster fail to punish them breaking from their own half, Leinster win balls and penalty on half way. Sexton find touch. First real attacking chance for Leinster. Leinster’s fans turn now with come on you boys in blue been roared out
53min Two points in it, Donnacha Ryan off for Dennis Leamy
52min Munster are a different side this half, Leinster struggling to get the ball. Munster running well, Howlett is seeing a lot of the ball. Munster scrum. Fans are full of voice, with the Fields of Athenry being belted out. Ross has been penalised. Another chance for O’Gara. Leinster in to double figures in the penalty count.
48min Another penalty to Munster, O’Gara kicks and we have a 5 point game
47min Play resumes with penalty to Munster, O’Gara finds touch
46min Paul O’Connell looks in serious trouble, he is holding his knee and looks like he is a lot of pain. Break in play, hope he’s ok – Mick O’Driscoll on as O’Connell comes off.
45min Johne Murphy is back on, as is O’Gara, 15 on 15 again
44min Infringment by Leinster, penalty Munster, its been all Munster. Warwick kicks it
42min O’Gara off to get cut sealed, Warwick on as a blood replacement – not a bad option to have come on
41min Munster come out for the second half full of purpose, O’Gara kick through is gathered by Leinster and Boss clears the lines
40min ref blows for half time amid boos from the crowd – its been a fast and furious first half
39min Another penalty, Sexton kicks well again, Leinster lead by 11
37min Munster attach from kick off, good work by O’Callaghan to win ball. Ball breaks to Leinster who kicks up field through Boss who wins the ball, how was that turned over, great work. Leinster break at pace, they are now just under the posts
36min Lovely kick from Sexton, Leinster extend lead. Munster down to 14 men
35min Johne Murphy has been sin binned as he doesn’t roll away from the tackle, ref had warned Munster – no one to blame only themselves
34min Munster attack breaks down as a loose pass is knocked forward by Ryan. Scrum to Leinster, won well. McLaughlin will another good run with ball. Quick note on Wallace, he has been great again for Munster. Penalty to Leinster as Jones fails to roll away from tackle. Sexton finds touch
30min its been a scrappy few minutes although Leinster are trying to move the ball around. Munster being forward to put in the tackles. McLaughlin’s comes in front the side, penalty to Munster. Ref moves play up 10m as Leinster kick the ball away.
25min Another penalty, this time to Munster and its a fine effort. Important kick keeps Munster in it.
22min First blood to Leinster – training ground move see Nacewa break from the scrum and his kick into the corner makes it to Horgan who touches down – ref checks with TMO who awards it. Sexton misses the conversion. Munster need a strong response.
20min O’Gara restart goes out – rare mistake gives Leinster put into scrum on half way
18min Its been an entertaining opening – we finally see some back line play with Nacewa doing well from O’Gara attempted kick to touch. Line out call ends in Leinster’s favour despite protests from crowd. Munster tackle in the air and Leinster have penalty. Sexton to kick – and kick he does
15min O’Driscoll catches the ball in the 22 and kicks to touch on Munster’s 10m line – Munster win line out
13min There is a real intensity to this game, Leinster are tackling hard and making life difficult. Play ends with the hardest kick so far as Leinster get another penalty. This game has been all about the forwards and fly halfs so far. Sexton kicks it. Munster and Leinster level , Sexton and O’Gara level
10min Varley line out just about reaches Buckley, Wallaces get the balls and push forward. Play ends with Scrum with Munster put in – Munster rock solid against Ross and Healy. Ref blows for offside in midfield. – Another easy kick for O’Gara
8min Frantic start results in 4th penalty, this time Leinster not back the required 10m -O’Gara kicks down the line
7min Penalty Leinster, Sexton’s turn now in the battle of the fly half’s and he makes no mistake in front of the post – Decent response from the men in blue
6min Leinster attack from kick off and win advantage through so strong tackle from Luke Fitzgerald and Sean O’Brien
5min O’Gara kicks for 3 points
4min Donnacha Ryan collects and Munster win the penalty
2min O’Gara’s chip collected by Maifi but the ball is spilled forward, advantage Leinster – advantage run outs and Munster win the penalty which O’Gara kick beautifully to touch
0min Sexton kicks off – Munster claim the ball
0min played Shane Horgan leads Leinster out, captain for the night on his 200th appearance, remarkable. O’Gara is also making his 200th appearance. Big night for Conor Murray at scrum half for Munster

Match Tracker
0min Its the biggest match in Irish provincial rugby and both sides will be hoping for a win.

Team News
Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, L Mafi, K Earls; R O’Gara, C Murray; W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell capt; D Ryan, D Wallace, J Coughlan.

Replacements: M Sherry, M Horan, J Hayes, M O’Driscoll, D Leamy, P Stringer, P Warwick, S Tuitupou.

Leinster: I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (capt), N Hines; K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: A Dundon, H van der Merwe, S Wright, D Toner, R Ruddock, E Reddan, I Madigan, F McFadden.

This Saturday the most storied rivals in Irish rugby lock horns once again. For Munster and Leinster their meeting in Thomand Park is a must win game for both teams. Leinster have the chance to beat Munster for the sixth consecutive time while Munster look to extend their lead at the top of the Magners League table and get one back on Leinster.

Looking back on their rivalry it is fascinating to see where both teams came from and where they are now. When professional rugby was in its infancy in Ireland Munster led the way. They blazed the trail in Europe and showed what could be achieved. They were the golden boys while Leinster where looked upon as the playboys, all flair and no stomach for a fight, of Irish rugby.

For years Leinster fans looked enviously down to Munster as they watched them lift the Heineken Cup while they were left to rue what might have been. Munster grew while Leinster went sideways. But one game would shift the balance of power and the mindset of both teams.

The 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park will be forever be remembered as the day Leinster stepped out of Munster’s shadow. That day they showed the rugby world just what they were made of.

As Bernard Jackman said in his book Blue Blooded “One team that day was ready to win and one was ready to lose. We were ready to win” That victory propelled Leinster to reach the promised land while it rocked Munster to its very core. I still believe they have not fully recovered mentally from that defeat. It left scars that haven’t fully healed.

Leinster pierced the Munster bubble that day. The balance of power was now with Leinster. They knew that they could beat Munster when it matter. So did Munster. One of the defining characteristics of Munster is the depth of their self belief. Munster has yet to fully regain their self belief. From that day on the mental edge went to Leinster and they have yet to give it back.

A victory for Munster this weekend would go some way to restoring confidence in their camp. Although top of the Magners League they are not in the Heineken Cup quarter final which is their be all and end all. Beating Leinster might just be the kick start they need to get back on track. A defeat for them could knock them back even further.

For Leinster a win in Thomand Park would set them up nicely for their clash with Leicester in the Aviva on Saturday week. They like Munster will be strengthen by the return of their Irish internationals to the fold.

A quick scan of the recent meetings between the two teams would give you an uneven perspective of how the teams are matched. Yes Leinster have won five on the spin but aside from the 30-0 drubbing at the RDS all the games have been fairly close. Expect nothing less this Saturday.

Mentally it is a huge game for both teams. Leinster has the edge on Munster. Overall they have the better depth of squad and the return of their front liners will make a big difference. Munster come into the game in good form. Their victory last weekend over the Cardiff Blues was impressive and they will need no motivation for this game.

As always this match will be highly intense. Ronan O Gara and Jonny Sexton continue their battle at fly half and whoever can control the match better will be on the winning side. Such games are never easy to predict. I fancy Leinster to just have enough to repel Munster. It should be a cracker.


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