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Leinster Rugby (13) 30 vs 0 (0) Munster Rugby
Royal Dublin Society, Showground
Saturday, 3rd October 2009, 18:30

"Once off? my d'arse"

Leinster simply out classed their southern neighbours tonight and in doing so put to bed any whispers murmuring around outside the sold out RDS before this evening's derby that "that day" in Croke Park was only a once off. In fact the similarities to last May were uncanny, both centres O'Driscoll and D'arcy added to their tallies and of coarse the score that put the game to bed again came giftwrapped by way of an intercept as a result of Munster chasing the game, courtesy of Shane Horgan. The interpro that was once described as "showponies vs. cart horses", was more like thoroughbreds vs. dressage steeds - more fitting of the of the royal showground surroundings.

Coming into the game the media had focused on what were some extremely interesting clashes, most involving Declan Kidney's upcoming selection headaches;

Young Pretenders vs. those who possess their respective international jerseys they so dearly covet, - most noticeably at prop and both half backs.

Fogarty vs. Fogarty, and who will more than likely be Flannery's backup now Best is out.

Could Leo Cullen or Shane Jennings finally get their stuttering international careers going?

Almost all of which came out in favour of the home side, but there was no place for individual battles tonight, it was a sum of the parts that won it for Leinster. All scores came from constant pressure forcing mistakes from the visitors and a massive defensive effort that saw Munster finish scoreless for the first time in the Magners League.

Leinster started the much more livelier, and Donncha O'Callaghan was penalised for offside - ahead of a clearance kick, and Jonathan Sexton started a perfect night with the boot by converting that error into 3 points. If early half breaks by Horgan and Sexton gave a signal of their attacking intentions, then big hits from Man of the Match Kevin Mc Laughlin (on O'Callaghan) and Fitzgerald (on Jean De Villiers) set the tone for the meanness of their defence. The pressure that they placed on the breakdown was paying off as referee, Simon McDowell penalized Tomas O'Leary for a second time for holding on, and when O'Gara fluffed Munster's only attempt at goal, even at 3-0 the signs were there that it was going to be Leinster's night.

Yet another penalty conceded by Munster at the breakdown allowed Leinster into the 22 for the first time on 20 minutes, captain Leo Cullen called the lineout on himself and used the removal of the ELV's to their advantage as they mauled it to within inches of the goal line, only for Munster to give away 3 separate penalties and eventually kill the ball. The referee chose not to go straight for the cards and placed Munster on a final warning instead. Sexton again converted to double the home side's lead.

Five minutes later, Leinster were again in the ascendancy, when a half break by Kevin Mc Laughlin was utilized to free the backline for the first time, and returning O'Driscoll put Shane Horgan into space. The big Boyne winger was able to link up superbly with Gordon D'Arcy, who touched down for the games opening try. Again Sexton, was able to add to the lead off the tee and Leinster led thirteen to nothing.

Munster then put together their the best passage of play of the first half when carries from the Nick Williams and Marcus Horan put them on the front foot, only for handling errors to prevent them from building any momentum or territory. They again went in search of their opening score as half time approached when a barnstorming run from Denis Leamy allowed him to offload to Williams who was chopped down by former Auckland team mate Isa Nacewa on the 22 and Leinster re-grouped in defence, as they did all evening and eventually bundled Denis Hurley into touch just metres from the line. Munster did force a turnover at the lineout, only for Nathan Hines to capitalize on sloppy Munster rucking and allow the home side head to the dressing rooms unscathed.

Leinster weren't willing to rest on their laurels and continued their attacking mindset, with Luke Fitzgerald deciding to counter a relieving kick from O'Gara.  Leinster  then showed great patience and 12 phases later, Sexton fed a drifting Brian O'Driscoll who broke a despairing tackle from new recruit Jean De Villiers and beat Keith Earls to score. When Sexton again added the extras it put clear daylight between the two at 20-0.

Munster knew they had to force the issue if they were to return south with anything from the fixture, and introduced returning Lions Paul O'Connell and David Wallace. But then came the only low point of the fixture as the visitors frustraion came to the fore. What at first appeared to be the inevitable "cead mile failte" to Irish rugby for Nathan Hines from Denis Leamy, transpired to be a much more controversial incident involving the most unlikely of characters. Both the touch judge and TV replays spotted a deliberate stamp to the head of Cian Healy. It turned out that the size 12 puma's belonged to the gentle giant from Bruff, John Hayes, and "the bull" saw red. Sexton was again able to split the posts from the resulting penalty and Leinster stretched their lead further. This will of course draw even further comparison last May and the eye gouge that cost Alan Quinlan his own lions spot and Hayes will more than likely receive a similar spell on the sidelines. Although one hopes his previous exemplary record may free him up in time for Autumn international duty.

With 10 minutes remaining the 14 men were no longer throwing caution to the wind, and substitute Paul Warick send a looping pass in field only for the exemplory Shane Horgan to beat De Villiers - himself dubbed the "intercept king"- to it and race clear and round off a prefect night.

Whats next?

Leinster start the defence of their Heineken Cup crown in full confidence next Friday at home to English table toppers London Irish in what promises to be a mouth watering clash, with the Exiles scoring tries for fun this term. Everything looks rosey in and around Donnybrook and Leinster have hit the ground running at such a pace this season that such influential characters such as Rocky Elsom and Felipe Contipomi have yet to be missed.

It doesn't get any easier for Munster who have to go back to Limerick with their tails between their legs and re-coup and attemp to correct their misfiring set piece before they head "bull-less" to Northampton next weekend and try breach the fortress that is Franklin's Gardens, but as they've always done when their backs are against the wall, it wouldn't surprise me if they pulled it off. Maybe they had their eye on the bigger picture all along.

Match Statistics

Leinster Rugby
Munster Rugby
Tries D'Arcy

Conversions Sexton (3)

Penalties Sexton (3)

Sin Bin

Red Cards

Hayes (55)
Teams Isa Nacewa 15 Keith Earls
Shane Horgan 14 Doug Howlett
Brian O'Driscoll
13 Lifeimi Mafi
Gordon d'Arcy
12 Jean de Villiers
Luke Fitzgerald
11 Denis Hurley
Jonathan Sexton
10 Ronan O'Gara (C)
Eoin Reddan
9 Tomas O'Leary

Cian Healy 1 Marcus Horan
John Fogarty
2 Denis Fogarty
Stanley Wright
3 John Hayes
Leo Cullen (C)
4 Donncha O'Callaghan
Nathan Hines
5 Mick O'Driscoll
Kevin McLaughlin
6 Denis Leamy
Shane Jennings 7 Niall Ronan
Jamie Heaslip
8 Nick Williams

Replacements Bernard Jackman (for Fogarty, 54)
16 Jerry Flannery (for Fogarty, 58)
Mike Ross (for Healy, 67, Healy for Wright, 70)
17 Tony Buckley (for Ronan, 58)
Malcolm O'Kelly (for Cullen, 76)
18 Paul O'Connell (for O'Driscoll, 50)
Sean O'Brien (for McLaughlin, 54)
19 David Wallace (for Williams, 50)
Simon Keogh (for Fitzgerald, 76)
20 Peter Stringer (for O'Leary, 70)
Fergus McFadden (for O'Driscoll, 73)
21 Paul Warwick (for Mafi, 58)
Rob Kearney (for D'Arcy, 58)
22 Ian Dowling (for Hurley, 67)

Not considered
due to injury
Eoin O'Malley
CJ van der Linde
Trevor Hogan

Match Officials Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Assistant Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU), Michael Black (IRFU)
4th Official: Peter Dennehy (ARLB)
5th Official: Tom Tuohy (ARLB)
TMO: Peter Ferguson (IRFU)

by hands away, © 2009-10-05