Winger Keith Earls touches down for one of his two tries in Munster's defeat to Leinster at the Aviva Stadium
MUNSTER’S depressing record at the Aviva Stadium continued on Saturday as Leinster inflicted a 23-17 defeat on their arch provincial rivals in their glamour Guinness PRO14 fixture
Munster have now won just one of their last 11 visits to Lansdowne Road in all competitions with Leinster running out deserving winners against the visitors in a high octane interprovincial clash played before an official attendance of 46,374.
A combination of poor discipline and too many mistakes cost Munster dear in their second defeat in six PRO14 fixtures this season.
Munster conceded 11 penalties in all, seven in the opening half, when hooker Niall Scannell was yellow carded for deliberately knocking a pass down.
However, two tries, one in either half from Keith Earls as well as an intercept from out-half Ian Keatley, ensured Munster left Dublin 4 with a losing bonus point and plenty of hope ahead of next weekend’s trip to Castres for their opening European Champions Cup group game.
Munster's lone triumph on Leinster soil since September 2008 came at the Aviva Stadium in 2014/2015.
The visitors did look to have opened the scoring in the 14th minute when a terrific pass from Chris Farrell set Keith Earls free and the Limerick winger blazed a trail through the Leinster defence before touching down. However, after Leinster captain Jonathan Sexton had consulted with the match referee, the ‘try’ was correctly chalked off due to Farrell’s pass being forward.
Earls was electric with ball in hand for Ireland in their summer tour to Japan and the USA, so his dynamic first half here is encouraging for the season ahead.
Leinster made the most of the ‘let-off’ after winning a scrum penalty on half way, the home side grabbed the opening try when centre Rory O’Loughlin took full advantage of poor Munster tackling to dot down.
Sexton also converted to see Leinster into a 7-0 lead. Munster’s task grew bigger when hooker Niall Scannell was sin-binned for deliberately knocking the ball down.
Despite being down to 14 players, Munster rallied and out-half Ian Keatley astutely collected Sexton’s lowly placed pass near the half-way line before racing clear to score in the 26th minute. Keatley also added the extras for 7-7.
Leinster continued with their ploy to utilise Adam Byrne’s height advantage on the right wing with some well placed up-and-unders from Sexton. Following one such crossfield kick, the home side carved the Munster defence open in the 35th minute with centre O’Loughlin touching down following a well-executed wrap around move involving the out-half and prop Tadhg Furlong. Sexton’s conversion made it 14-7.
Munster’s discipline was poor in the opening half with the visitors conceding seven penalties as well as Scannell picking up a yellow card. In contrast Leinster had just one penalty awarded against them.
A further penalty awarded against Munster in the 43rd minute, for Chris Farrell’s high tackle on Carbery provided Sexton with the oppiortunity to increase their 14-7 half-time advantage to 17-7.
Munster rallied, with flanker Tommy O’Donnell making a marauding 50 metre break up the middle of the pitch before to Earls who produced a terrific finish to score in the corner. JJ Hanrahan was off target with the conversion.
Leinster’s 17-12 lead became 20-12 when Sexton converted a scrum penalty award on 52 minutes.
More indiscipline from Munster – although it looked like a harsh call against Scannell for holding on – saw Sexon kick his third penalty goal for the home side in the 55th minute.
Munster earned excellent field position soon after and managed to execute a powerful rolling maul off a line-out. However, the maul’s progress was abruptly halted by a Leinster playing appearing to try and pull it down when lying on the ground, but the referee chose not to penalise the home side.
Munster did earn a losing bonus point in the 79th minute when Earls struck for his second try of the game, touching down in the left corner.
SCORERS: Leinster: Rory O’Loughlin try, try Jonathan Sexton con, con, pen, pen, pen. Munster: Ian Keatley try, con, Keith Earls two tries.
LEINSTER: Joey Carbery; Adam Byrne, Rory O'Loughlin, Robbie Henshaw, Barry Daly; Jonathan Sexton (capt), Luke McGrath; Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements: Sean Cronin for Tracy, Michael Bent for Furlong. Cian Healy for Jack McGrath (50 mins), Jordi Murphy for Ruddock, Jamison Gibson-Park for Luke McGrath (62 mins), Ross Molony for Fardy (69 mins), Fergus McFadden for Daly (73 mins), Rhys Ruddock for van den Flier (73 mins), Ross Byrne for Sexton (76 mins).
MUNSTER: JJ Hanrahan; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Tyler Bleyendaal, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Robin Copeland, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (capt), Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: Rhys Marshall for O’Donnell (28-31 mins), Alex Wootton for Keatley, Stephen Archer for Ryan (both 45 mins), Jack O’Donoghue for O’Donnell (64 mins), Rory Scannell for Bleyendaal 66 mins), Rhys Marshall for Niall Scannell, Liam O’Connor for Kilcoyne (both 68 mins), Mark Flanagan for Copeland (69 mins), Duncan Williams for Murray (73 mins).
REFEREE: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)