Belfast Telegraph

Munster leave Leinster licking their wounds

Munster 28 - Leinster 13

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The balance of power in Irish rugby's big traditional derby has undoubtedly shifted.

In front of a packed Thomond Park, Munster have found a way to unnerve, unbalance and ultimately beat their old rivals Leinster, and for the second time this season they left regretting not picking up a winning bonus point.

Anthony Foley has gone back to basics, and no-one dislikes Munster's primal game more than their old foes from the eastern seaboard.

Put simply, the men in red bullied their opponents despite the fact the visiting team travelled south with more caps in their side and an exciting backline on paper.

Foley dusted off the game-plan that worked so well at the Aviva Stadium in October and it worked even better.

Munster targeted Richardt Strauss's throw and found that Leinster's lineout was a weakened unit in Devin Toner's absence, while they lorded the contact zone again, with Tommy O'Donnell and CJ Stander outstanding, while Billy Holland was a close third.

That gave Ian Keatley the platform from which he could orchestrate the game. He put the forwards in the right places and they repaid him by continually getting over the gain-line.

Up against Ian Madigan, who was making a rare outing in the No 10 jersey, the Munster pivot looked far more comfortable in his surroundings and added a couple of clever breaks and incisive passes to his repertoire.

It would be harsh to judge Madigan on one game and he deserves better from his pack, but the watching Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was given plenty of food for thought as he weighs up who to pick at out-half to face Italy in the Six Nations in February.

"It was probably one of our better performances of the year, we played in the right areas and, although we left some tries out there, we wanted a win," Foley said.

"It was important to show character, to get a win and stop a losing streak. They turned up, it's a big occasion, a sell-out and they all bought into it.

"We've a certain way we want to play, we want to put pressure on Leinster to play in their own half and capitalise on that. We didn't give the ball back to them too easily."

Leinster invited Munster into the game with a sloppy start that saw Zane Kirchner beaten in the air by Andrew Conway and Madigan and Dave Kearney get in a muddle under a Keatley high ball which ended in the winger being bundled into touch.

From the lineout, Kane Douglas hauled down a Munster maul to allow the home fly-half open the scoring, but it was cancelled out by Madigan minutes later.

Stander crashed through Luke Fitzgerald to score despite losing his jersey earlier in the phase.

Munster led by 11-6 at the break and they continued their run to add 10 more points within 15 minutes of the restart, Conway powering over. Dave O'Callaghan also scythed through to score.

The Blues pulled a try back through Shane Jennings.

Munster head to Connacht on New Year's Day, while Leinster have a long week to stew on their no-show before hosting Ulster next Saturday.

Belfast Telegraph

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