MUNSTER surrendered a nine-point first half lead before suffering a 22-18 RaboDirect PRO12 defeat to arch rivals Leinster at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday night.
Brian O’Driscoll’s second half try capped a spirited comeback for the home side in an intense, physical top-of-the-table clash.
The defeat sees Munster slip five points behind table toppers Leinster in the battle to secure a home semi-final in the PRO12. However, Munster remain three points ahead of third-placed Ulster in the table.
While Munster will be disappointed to lose, the fiercely competitive nature of the contest should stand Rob Penney’s men in good stead ahead of next Saturday’s crucial Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with Toulouse at Thomond Park, 1.30pm.
Ian Keatley kicked all 18 of Munster’s points in a flawless kicking display. Munster lost prop Dave Kilcoyne to a yellow card in the second half.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony was a late withdrawal from the starting line-up due to a hamstring twinge and the management team will be keeping their fingers crossed that the flanker will be fit for the Toulouse clash. O’Mahony was replaced by CJ Stander.
SCORERS - Leinster: Brian O’Driscoll try, Ian Madigan five pens, one con. Munster: Ian Keatley six pens.
LEINSTER - Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack O’Connell, Edward Byrne, Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy, Isaac Boss, Jimmy Gopperth, Zane Kirchner.
MUNSTER - Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne (Capt), Damien Varley, BJ Botha, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, Alan Cotter, Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Gerhard van den Heever.
REFEREE - Alain Rolland (Ireland)