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Munster Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Thomond Park, Limerick
Saturday, 2nd April 2011, 19:30

Television: Live RTE 2

Form goes out the window in derbies and in none more so than those between inter-provincial rivals Leinster and Munster. So often we hear that it's down to whoever wants it more. Looking at the league table it would seem that should have been Leinster. We're fighting it out with Ulster, Ospreys and Cardiff for the three remaining top four places - with Munster already looking good for the top spot. But Leinster had come out on top in the last five meetings between the clubs. Munster surely couldn't stomach a sixth defeat - and in a packed Thomond Park with Leinster having perhaps half an eye on next weeks HEC quarter final.... Pundits were agreed in the week before the game that this would be a close one - what they couldn't agree on however was who would come out on top.

Before the game Leinster fans too had an eye on next weeks game - concern about the possibility of injury to key players in a fixture that is never lacking in physicality. It was discussed how the result might impact our team - would defeat spur them on or victory make them complacent? Previous seasons were analysed - beating Munster only to lose to London Irish, losing twice to Munster only to beat them in the HEC semi. All was forgotten however once Sexton got the game underway, all that mattered was the match before them because regardless of the bigger picture, Leinster fans do not like losing to Munster.

The game started as closely as predicted with the out-halves trading penalties through the first 20 minutes. O'Gara was first on the scorecard in the fifth minute when Richardt Strauss was penalised for collapsing a maul. Jonathan Sexton brought the sides level just two minutes later when Munster were penalised for not rolling away. Leinster conceded a penalty for offside which O'Gara kicked to touch and the Munster pack brought play close to Leinster's line. They were awarded a scrum for an unplayable ball. The Leinster defensive line were caught offside giving O'Gara the chance to re-take the lead for Munster, which he did. Again though, the sides were level within two minutes when Munster were again penalised for not rolling away. Leinster began to see more of the ball and when Paul O'Connell interfered with Kevin McLaughlin in the air at a line-out they were rewarded with a penalty and the lead. In fairness to the Munster lock it did look like his lifters had let go of him and he grabbed McLaughlin instinctively rather than intentionally.

O'Gara put the restart straight into touch and Leinster took a scrum on halfway. Munster were penalised for an early engage and Leinster again took the scrum. This time it was quick ball for Leinster and a searing break from Isa Nacewa followed by a clever kick through from the Fijian international saw Shane Horgan over for a try in the corner on his 200th appearance for Leinster. Sexton missed the conversion and Leinster led by eight. This was reduced to five by O'Gara five minutes later when Brian O'Driscoll was penalised for not releasing the tackled player.

Munster were again penalised at the ruck in the 34th minute and referee Andrew Small issued a team warning to O'Connell. It was a warning he acted on just two minutes later when Johne Murphy was sent to the bin for another ruck infringement. Sexton put the gap between the sides back to eight. Munster were back in the Leinster 22 before half-time. Isaac Boss stole the ball and a clearance kick straight down the middle of the pitch bounced kindly for Jamie Heaslip. Leinster broke the line with Richardt Strauss and an infringement from Munster in their 22 gave Leinster another penalty and perhaps should have seen Buckley join Murphy in the bin. Sexton converted bringing the gap to eleven at half time.

Munster started the second half with purpose. A kick through from O'Gara was collected by Fitzgerald who passed to Boss to kick to touch. O'Gara left the pitch with a blood injury and was replaced by Paul Warwick. The pressure continued from Munster and they were rewarded with a penalty opportunity which Warwick converted. A Leinster line-out in the 46th minute saw O'Connell again not brought safely to the ground by his lifters. This time however the Munster lock came down awkwardly and the thoughts of all Ireland fans are with him over the next few days as we all hope the injury turns out not to be as serious as feared. In the meantime Leinster had been penalised for holding on and O'Gara sent play back into Leinster's half. Cullen was penalised at the resulting line-out and O'Gara reduced the gap to five. Calls were beginning to go against Leinster. Ross was penalised at a scrum where Leinster appeared to have the upper hand and O'Gara brought his side to within two. A deliberate knock on from Johne Murphy put an end to a promising Leinster move. The culprit was lucky to escape a second yellow and so a red card. Another player, or indeed Murphy had the original card been not been issued on the basis of a team warning, would most likely have walked. The highlight of the match for the local supporters came in the 61st minute when Leinster centre Brian O'Driscoll was adjudged not to have released the tackler and sent to the bin. Munster took the lead. They held it only briefly as a Munster player played the ball from an off-side position and Sexton converted the penalty. Munster had an opportunity to regain the lead in the 68th minute when Leinster were penalised for collapsing a maul but O'Gara put his shot wide. Again, decisions seemed to go against Leinster as a kick fielded by Luke Fitzgerald led to a Munster scrum which appeared to go ninety but not in the eyes of Andrew Small. What looked to be a forward pass almost saw Earls through on the wing. Small was in the Munster back-line at this stage and got in the way of a pass giving Munster a scrum in a dangerous position. They were eventually awarded a penalty converted by O'Gara. There was barely time for the restart. Munster collected and kicked to touch to claim the victory and end the run of losses to their main rival.

Munster fans in Dolan's after the game were singing 'One in a row' and it will be some time before Leinster fans can again dream of a Drive for Five let alone the Seventh Heaven or Eight on a Plate that some wits were throwing into the mix before the game. Still it has been some run and one that Leinster fans will remember for some time. We can still appreciate the fact that Munster have again failed to cross our try-line and as the battle for the play-off places hots up the losing bonus point could yet prove crucial. More importantly we appear to have emerged with no major injury concerns heading into the quarter finals next week.

Team Lineups

Munster Rugby
24 - 23
Leinster Rugby

Penalties O'Gara (7),

Sexton (6)
Sin Bin Murphy


Teams Felix Jones
15 Isa Nacewa
Doug Howlett
14 Shane Horgan
Johne Murphy
13 Brian O'Driscoll
Liefeimi Mafi
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Keith Earls
11 Luke Fitzgerald
Ronan O'Gara
10 Jonathan Sexton
Conor Murray
9 Isaac Boss

Wian du Preez
1 Cian Healy
Damien Varley
2 Richardt Strauss
Tony Buckley
3 Mike Ross
Donncha O'Callaghan
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Paul O'Connell (C)
5 Nathan Hines
Donncha Ryan
6 Kevin McLaughlin
David Wallace
7 Sean O'Brien
James Coughlan
8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Mike Sherry
16 Aaron Dundon
Marcus Horan
17 Heinke van der Merwe
John Hayes
18 Stan Wright
Mick O'Driscoll
19 Devin Toner
Denis Leamy
20 Rhys Ruddock
Peter Stringer
21 Eoin Reddan
Paul Warwick
22 Ian Madigan
Sam Tuitupoy
23 Fergus McFadden

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jerry Flannery,
Denis Fogarty,
Ian Dowling,
Barry Murphy,
Dave Foley,
Tomas O'Leary,
Tom Gleeson,
Dave Ryan

Rob Kearney,
Shaun Berne,
Shane Jennings,
Stephen Keogh,
Andrew Conway
Officials Referee: Andrew small (RFU, 7th league game)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, R Kerr (both IRFU)
TMO: Peter Ferguson (IRFU)

by Yvonne Kelly, © 2011-04-04