Jordan Larmour's brilliant late try helps Leinster triumph at Munster
Jordan Larmour's 60-metre effort was the decisive score of an epic eight-try Guinness PRO14 derby as Leinster defeated Munster 34-24 at Thomond Park.
The 20-year-old Leinster full-back, playing in his first festive inter-provincial derby, lit up the occasion with a superb side-stepping run that took him past three Munster players, and he had enough strength to ground the ball under pressure from the covering Simon Zebo.
Larmour's 69th-minute bonus-point score broke up what had been a stirring second-half fightback from the hosts, who had appeared to be suffering from a Christmas hangover as tries from man of the match Dan Leavy and Robbie Henshaw - along with a penalty try and Ross Byrne's 10-point kicking haul - gave Leinster a 27-5 half-time lead.
The capacity crowd of 26,267 roared its approval as tries from Ian Keatley (45) and Andrew Conway (48), adding to Conor Murray's first-half effort, got Munster back in contention at 27-19. However, Larmour consigned the men in red to their first home defeat since February before Conway's second try earned Munster a battling bonus point.
The visitors sprinted ahead early on. Leavy forced a penalty at the very first breakdown, with fly-half Byrne swinging over a well-struck kick from the right for the opening points inside two minutes. Like Leavy, Conway was also heavily involved in the early exchanges, testing out Barry Daly's defence in the Leinster 22. However, the visitors built a 13-0 lead in as many minutes.
James Lowe, making his first appearance on Irish soil, and Larmour injected pace in a free-flowing break from halfway, and with space on the opposite wing, Byrne's cross-field kick gave Leavy a simple run-in for his eighth-minute try.
The increasingly influential Leinster number 10 added a terrific conversion from out wide and then nailed a penalty from the 10-metre line as Munster, who were hoping to win on captain Peter O'Mahony's 100th appearance, continued to struggle with their discipline and kick transition.
Johann van Graan's charges did manage to free up Alex Wootton along the left touchline and, with further momentum from a penalty and clever maul move in the 17th minute, Murray dived over in the left corner for a much-needed five-pointer.
However, Munster entered the second quarter 20-5 down and with full-back Conway in the sin-bin. His early tackle on Lowe, as the pair chased a Larmour kick up to the Munster try-line, saw referee Nigel Owens award a penalty try, having consulted with the television match official.
It got even worse for O'Mahony and his team-mates in the 22nd minute as they allowed Rory O'Loughlin to counter brilliantly from deep and link with the supporting Daly, whose pass out of a tackle sent Henshaw over to the right of the posts.
The tables were very much turned on the resumption, however, with Keatley sniping over for a galvanising try.
Suddenly, the momentum was all with Munster as Keatley converted and then added the extras to a classy score from Conway, who cut inside the otherwise impressive Larmour and finished smartly past Daly, the final defender, wide on the right.
A breathless and frenzied passage of play saw both defences come under waves of pressure. Leavy stepped up for the visitors, winning a crucial turnover penalty in his 22, and Larmour took centre-stage two minutes later.
The Dubliner's pace and blinding footwork carved open the Munster defence on a kick return and the resulting try gave Leinster breathing space, with Byrne's conversion making it 34-19.
Conway's well-taken 76th-minute try ensured the hosts at least had something to show for their frenetic second-half comeback, but t he visitors' bench, which included Tadhg Furlong and Josh van der Flier, helped them seal their second season double over Munster in three years.