Jonathan Sexton’s 65th penalty gave Leinster a 16-15 victory over Munster at a full house Thomond park Stadium on Good Friday. (report from Munster Rugby website)
It was one they fully deserved and virtually guarantees them a home semi final scheduled for the weekend of May 15th and also leaves them in rude good health for the Heineken Cup quarter final clash with Clermont Auvergne next weekend.
Munster were architects of their own downfall once again conceding too many penalties and somehow managing go into the break trailing by a point after enjoying the better of the exchanges in that opening half.
They were leading 12-6 when Sexton missed a straight forward penalty in first half injury time but from the restart they failed to deal with a garryowen and then a chip ahead that bounced kindly for Rob Kearney to score in the corner. Sexton atoned for his earler miss with a superb conversion and it was the visitors who went into half time with a very definite pep about their step.
In truth the deficit could have been much greater because Gordon D’Arcy butchered a great try scoring opportunity and minutes later with Leinster in possession at a ruck under the posts, Munster’s right flank was totally barren with four Leinster backs screaming for ball. That threat ended with the concession of a three pointer when it should really have been seven.
The second half ended three points apiece but Munster really never troubled a rock solid Leinster and in truth at no stage in the game did they look remotely like crossing the Leinster line. It was O’Gara who kept them in touch with five kicks from five attempts and the Corkman certainly looked far more composed than his opposite number.
However, in most places around the park it was the Leinster players who won the personal battles, with the exception of centre and lock where Jean de Villiers looked a class act and Mick O’Driscoll as usual worked his socks off. Jerry Flannery also made an impressive return to action before being replaced in the 68th minute.
It was Leinster first win in Limerick since 1995 and it was the third successive time Munster have failed to score a try against their arch rivals.
Munster: P Warwick; D Howlett, L Mafi, J de Villiers, I Dowling; R O’Gara capt, T O’Leary; M Horan, J Flannery, J Hayes; D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Wallace. Replacements: S Deasy for Dowling (57 mins), D Fogarty for Flannery, T Buckley for Hayes (both 68 mins), J Coughlan for Ronan (69 mins), N Williams for Wallace (73 mins). Not used: P Stringer, T Gleeson. Sinbinned: O’Callaghan (18-28).
Leinster: R Kearney; G Dempsey, F McFadden, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; S Wright, J Fogarty, CJ van der Linde, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, N Hines, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements: C Healy for van der Linde (h-t), M O’Kelly for Toner (47 mins), S Berne for D’Arcy (64 mins), van der Linde for Wright (74 mins). Not used: B Jackman, Stephen Keogh, P O’Donohoe, E O’Malley. Sinbinned: Cullen (13-23), Hines (51-61).
Referee: R Poite (France).