WATCH: Munster fall to home defeat against Leinster in epic Pro14 derby clash

Donn O'Sullivan

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Donn O'Sullivan

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donn.osullivan@limerickleader.ie

WATCH: Munster Leinster Thomond Park

Alex Wootton of Munster is tackled by Rory O'Loughlin of Leinster during the Guinness PRO14 Round 11

Munster and Leinster played out an enthralling 34-24, eight try, Pro14 derby at Thomond Park this evening in front of a 26,000 plus sell out crowd.

Munster were stunned by the quick start of Leinster, leaving too much to do at the half, despite attempting a valiant comeback in the second 40. 

The first half opened with Leinster settling into the game better, taking a 10-0 lead after just 9 minutes. An early Ross Byrne penalty was added to five minutes later when he put in a superb cross field kick to Dan Leavy to put Leinster 8-0 to the good.

Once more Byrne was on hand to add the extras moving his side to a 10-0 lead showing why he is the deputy to Johnny Sexton at Leinster ahead of Joey Carbery.

The gap between the sides was to widen even further when Byrne kicked his side into a 13-0 lead when Stephen Archer was adjudged to have been offside from an Alex Wootton kick ahead. 

Munster were to explode back into the game after 18 minutes however as Conor Murray crossed the white wash following a unique line out play five metres from the Leinster line. The line out, which featured Murray being lifted to claim the ball, led to a carry by CJ Stander, before Murray dived over to make it 13-5 (Conversion was missed from the sideline)

The balance of the rip roaring encounter went back to Leinster once more after 20 minutes when a kick through by Jordan Lamour saw Andrew Conway impede James Lowe as he was about to cross the line. Referee Nigel Owens awarded a penalty try to Leo Cullen's team seeing them 20-5 ahead. 

Things went from bad to worse for Munster as Robbie Henshaw crossed the white wash to finish off a superb team try after 23 minutes. With O'Loughlin, Daly and Lamour all involved, Munster were powerless to defend the superb off loading try when they were down to 14 men. When Byrne kicked the extras, the visitors were 27-5 down. (Watch below)

The remainder of the opening half was played between the two 22's with Leinster looking comfortable in defence, handling what Munster had to offer. 

The response Munster needed at the start of the second half came after 47 minutes when Ian Keatley crossed for five points following some excellent carries from his forwards in the opposition 22. When the former Leinster out half added the extras, the score stood at 27-12.

Things got even better when Andrew Conway was put into space by an excellent pass from Ian Keatley to close the gap to just 10 points. 27-17, before the crowd were on their feet seconds later as Keatley added the extras to make it 27-19 after 53 minutes. 

In what was an intensely fought clash, the next score of the game was going to prove crucial as Munster chased the come back and Leinster chased the bonus point win. Jordan Larmour was the man to break that deadlock with a potential try of the season from the St Mary's full back. Leaving Munster defenders in his wake, Larmour danced from just outside his own 22 over for the score to leave the score at 34-19 (conversion by Byrne)

 

Just when fans thought the game was done and dusted, Conway crossed once more for another excellent finish to see his side close the gap once more to 34-24. A telling sign of how good this game was overall, both sides left with try scoring bonus points. 

Munster had won their last five matches in all competitions since Connacht beat them in Galway in Round 7 of the Guinness PRO14 in November. Johann van Graan's men had won their last 12 home games in Limerick and Cork in all tournaments since the Scarlets 30-21 win at Thomond Park in the PRO14 last February.

Next up for Munster is a New Year's Day clash with Ulster at Ravenhill at 5.35pm

Scorers: Munster: C Murray (Try), Ian Keatley (Try, Conversion x 2) Andrew Conway (Try x 2) Leinster: R Byrne (Penalty x 2, Conversion x3) Penalty Try. D Leavy (Try) R Henshaw (Try) J Larmour (Try)

Munster: A Conway, D Sweetnam, S Arnold, R Scannell, A Wootton, I Keatley, C Murray, D Kilcoyne, K O'Byrne, S Archer, J Kleyn, B Holland, P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell, CJ Stander

Replacements: N Scannell, J Cronin, J Ryan, D O’Shea, J O’Donoghue, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, S Zebo

Leinster: J Larmour, B Daly, R O’Loughlin, R Henshaw, J Lowe, R Byrne, J Gibson-Park, J McGrath, J Tracy, M Bent, D Toner, J Ryan, J Murphy, D Leavy, J Conan

Replacements: R Strauss, E Byrne, T Furlong, M Kearney, J van der Flier, N McCarthy, C Marsh, N Reid

Match officials – referee: Nigel Owens

AR1: Sean Gallagher

AR2: Stuart Gaffikin

TMO: Simon McDowell