12 Dec, 14:42
Prop Cian Healy is expected to miss the start of the 2014 RBS 6 Nations after undergoing surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday.
Man-of-the-match Ian Keatley produced his most authoritative display in the Munster number 10 jersey to date, creating the game's only try for Keith Earls and reeling off five successful kicks from seven attempts for a 14-point tally.
With retired Munster great Ronan O'Gara no doubt keeping track of proceedings from Paris, he would have been heartened to see the control his replacement Keatley exerted on the provinces' first meeting of the season.
There were a few principles from recent Munster-Leinster clashes missing from this one - most notably O'Gara and his Racing Metro 92 colleague Jonathan Sexton, who battled it out as rival out-halves in the past five years, and Sexton's former Leinster team-mate Brian O'Driscoll who is currently nursing a calf strain.
O'Driscoll scored a decisive try when Leinster won in Limerick last April, making it four victories on the trot over Munster, but injury ruled him out of this pre-Heineken Cup duel and a hungrier Munster side deservedly prevailed.
After a stop-start opening quarter, Rob Penney's men edged their way to a 10-9 interval lead with Keatley creating a classy 33rd minute try for Earls who was particularly influential on the ball.
Keatley's opposite number Ian Madigan, who had been sin-binned in the previous play, landed two first half penalties which were added to by a Fergus McFadden kick on the stroke of half-time.
There was little between the sides in the second period, but Munster's forwards exerted greater control - especially in the scrum - and Keatley's right boot did the rest, landing three more penalties to two from Madigan.
Leinster had taken a third minute lead, with a brave catch from Rob Kearney setting them up for some strong early phases - the product of which was a successful Madigan penalty from the 10-metre line.
Munster had to wait for a chance to respond, a period of loose handling and messy scrums doing little to lift the tension on the pitch and off it.
French referee Romain Poite punished Leinster for their over-eagerness at the first two scrums, but the hosts were unable to profit from Keatley's clever pass back inside that released Donnacha Ryan into the 22.
Keatley's radar was off cue though when he knocked a very kickable 15th minute penalty wide off the right hand post, with Earls' excellent chase and first-up hit on David Kearney in the build-up deserving of the three points.
Three minutes later Madigan hit the post padding with a penalty shot from just inside the Leinster half, but Cian Healy soon forced Stephen Archer to drop a scrum closer to the Munster uprights and Madigan made it 6-0.
Munster marched downfield on the back of a Peter O'Mahony-won penalty at the breakdown and they got the decision at a subsequent scrum, allowing Keatley to get them off the mark from the kicking tee.
The Munster out-half took centre stage approaching the interval, sparking the long range break that led to Madigan's sin-binning and Earls' subsequent try owed much to the accuracy of Keatley's booming cross-field kick.
Earls had gone close to scoring just moments earlier, David Kearney scrambling back to deny him but at the ensuing ruck Madigan needlessly came in at the side to play the ball and Poite reached for his yellow card.
Munster swiftly made their numerical advantage count, mauling up close from a lineout before Keatley booted the ball wide to the lurking Earls who gathered on the right wing and deftly dodged past Rob Kearney to score.
Penney's charges wanted to build on that try but Leinster's pack carved out a late penalty for McFadden to slot from inside the 22, making it a one-point game at the break.
Munster had to replace their captain O'Mahony, who shipped a knee to the head, but they kept on course thanks to a well-struck Keatley penalty early in the second half.
The play remained scrappy for the most part, Leinster trying to work winger Kearney into space before Keatley miscued a long range drop goal effort.
Jamie Heaslip and Healy combined to get Leinster back into scoring range, their hard work helping to earn a penalty which Madigan stuck between the posts from close range.
He nudged Matt O'Connor's side back in front from further out in the 55th minute, after Archer was harshly adjudged to have blocked Madigan as he chased his own chip over halfway.
Leinster's 15-13 advantage was quickly erased by Keatley nearing the hour mark and Munster looked to have gained a psychological edge when they marched a scrum forwards - with replacement front rowers James Cronin and Damien Varley earning plenty of praise for winning the penalty.
The resulting kick was sent home by a confident Keatley, giving the hosts some much-needed breathing space at four points up.
Leinster served warning of their continuing threat with a fine break from Lote Tuqiri, who deputised for the injured O'Driscoll at outside centre.
However, Tuqiri had to be replaced with six minutes left having pulled his hamstring as he attempted to break free from deep.
Had he still been in his Wallaby prime, he may have had the legs to go the length of the pitch but Munster will argue that they had enough numbers to cope.
There were no late heroics from the defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions as Munster, with a fit-again Paul O'Connell driving them forward, closed out a morale-boosting win.
Keatley missed a late penalty from distance, but the men in red did not need it and they engineered a huge ground-gaining scrum at the finish to rub salt into Leinster wounds.
|Munster Rugby Score Card|
|Leinster Rugby Score Card|