Perfect record survives Munster’s onslaught

by Dave Donnelly

Leinster’s perfect season continued as Leo Cullen’s youthful charges came out the right side of a 13-6 armwrestle with provincial rivals Munster.

Ed Byrne’s ninth-minute try proved the decisive score as the two sides exchanged two penalties apiece in an attritional, low-scoring game at Thomond Park.

Munster hadn’t lost in 22 games in all competitions at the famous Limerick venue and they ran out convincing winners when the sides met at the same point 12 months ago.

An unfortunate red card for James Lowe on that occasion scuppered Leinster’s best-laid plans and the home side ran out convincing winners.

There would be no repeats on a miserable evening by the Shannon as Leinster were never any less than a converted try ahead from the moment the prop dotted down.

A well-worked move off the back -of a driving maul was enough to put wing Lowe into space and, though he was hauled down before the line, Leinster recycled to put Byrne over.

Quick passes between debutant scrum-half Rowan Osborne – a late replacement for the injured Jamison Gibson-Park – and Ross Byrne released Lowe.

He couldn’t make the line, as he has done so often in the blue of Leinster, but he was on hand to paw the ball into the hands of Ed Byrne a couple of phases down the line.

Ross Byrne tapped the conversion over the bar and would add two additional penalties before Munster belatedly began to tick the scoreboard over.

It was 13-3 at the interval as JJ Hanrahan landed a penalty for Munster, and the Kerryman’s second five minutes into the second half seemed to signal a revival from the red province.

That would be the final scoring of the day, however, as a strong wind and slippery ball ensured little in the way of silky attacking play was attempted by either side.

Munster dominated possession and territory for the remaining half-hour but rarely threatened until the final moments, when Leinster were forced to back their defence when stretched.

A pilfered line-out, courtesy of lock Ross Moloney, allowed the blue province to run down the clock and celebrate a big four points ahead of this week’s visit of Connacht.

“It was tough conditions out there and the wind played a big part,” said Cullen.

“It was very difficult for both attacking teams when they had position, but we’re delighted with the great spirit at the end to hold Munster out on our try-line.

“It’s a much better feeling than this time last year. It was fairly chaotic last year and we don’t really deal with that chaos particularly well. It was a much more disciplined performance.

“We’re back to the RDS next year for another week of interpros so hopefully we’ll have a big crowd for Connacht on Saturday.

“We struggled in the game against Connacht this time last year – we scored a try right at the death. Hopefully we won’t leave it as late this year.

“We’ve a number of guys coming back into the team next week. We’ve had to manage a lot of guys coming back from the World Cup and it’s important they get a proper break at this time of the year.”

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