Munster and Leinster both got their pre-season schedule of fixtures underway at Musgrave Park tonight, as a four-try first half performance propelled Leo Cullen’s men to a 33-12 victory.
PRE-SEASON MATCH: Friday, September 8
MUNSTER 12 LEINSTER 33, Musgrave Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Scott Buckley, Stephen Kiely; Con: Tony Butler
Leinster: Tries: Jason Jenkins, Lee Barron 2, Tommy O’Brien, Diarmuid Mangan; Cons: Ciarán Frawley 3, Charlie Tector
HT: Munster 7 Leinster 26
Responding to Scott Buckley’s second-minute opener, Leinster seized control of the scoreboard when Jason Jenkins, Lee Barron (2) and Tommy O’Brien all crossed to make it 26-7 by half-time.
Young hooker Barron’s second maul score came while Munster’s Andrew Conway was in the sin bin, and while the hosts had some promising phases, replacement Diarmuid Mangan touched down on his Leinster debut to effectively seal the result.
Ireland Under-19 international Stephen Kiely also marked his senior bow for Munster with a well-taken try, towards the end of a good hit-out for both teams who emerged with slight injury worries over bandaged-up pair Jordan Larmour and Shane Daly.
Mangan and Kiely were two of nine debutants on the night – Kieran Ryan, Evan O’Connell and Shay McCarthy were also introduced off the Munster bench, while Rory McGuire, Gus McCarthy, Paddy McCarthy and Andrew Osborne took the number of Leinster new caps to five.
It took Munster just 99 seconds to get off the mark in the muggy conditions. Leinster were caught offside from their first kick chase, and hooker Buckley profited from a forwards drive that benefited from a timely second surge.
Despite Tony Butler’s tidy conversion from the right and a scrum free-kick, Munster lost that initial momentum when coughing up two penalties. The visitors’ first visit to the opposition 22 resulted in a levelling try, nine minutes in.
Max Deegan passed down lineout ball off the top for James Culhane to attack hard off the rear, and Cormac Foley used quick ruck ball to send Jenkins ghosting through a gap to score from close range. Ciarán Frawley converted.
Munster were next to threaten, driven on by an Alex Kendellen lineout steal and Butler’s accurate right boot. However, Barron managed to get a crucial hand to a pass from Kendellen as he tried to put Josh Wycherley over from 10 metres out.
Buckley, who looked sharp during the first quarter, ended it with a mistimed lineout as Munster left a gilt-edged maul opportunity behind them. Their scrum responded by winning a penalty before Deegan pinched Buckley’s next throw.
Rustiness was evident during a scrappy spell of handling errors, but Leinster struck again in the 28th minute to lead 12-7. Barron, having connected with Brian Deeny in the air, produced a powerful finish, wriggling out of Wycherley’s grasp to scramble over from the resulting maul.
After Frawley’s conversion had come back off the near left hand post, Daly fought for hard-earned turnover ball. Simon Zebo was hoping to spread play out wide, but his high pass went through Conway’s fingers, allowing O’Brien a clear run-in from almost 60 metres out.
Frawley turned it into a seven-pointer but despite leaking two tries in three minutes, Munster took some positives from their play approaching the interval.
A brilliant skip pass from Zebo gave Conway a rare chance to stretch his legs, and Gavin Coombes held up Scott Penny to deny the Leinster captain their fourth try. Yet, that score did come and it was Barron who bagged his brace.
Leinster remained on the front foot, forcing more penalties and one close to his own line saw Conway binned for collapsing a maul. The Barron-Deegan combination worked well again out of touch, and the 22-year-old front rower finished smartly from the ensuing drive.
Frawley’s conversion gave his side a 19-point advantage to take into the second period, which Munster began with an unchanged team. Leinster brought in Charlie Tector and Luke McGrath at half-back, and Jamie Osborne linked up with Frawley who had moved to centre.
There were much better signs from 14-man Munster though, as Daly broke the line and linked with the supporting Zebo. John Hodnett also made good metres coming in off the left, and skipper Jack O’Donoghue gobbled up a Butler cross-field kick.
Some crisp handling between Neil Cronin, Buckley and Fineen Wycherley had Munster hunting down a free-flowing try, but Rory Scannell was unable to hold onto Butler’s looping pass with an unmarked Hodnett all alone near the left corner.
Calvin Nash and Jamie Osborne both gained ground with sharp runs, as did the returning Conway with his kick chase and a full-blooded follow-up tackle. Zebo’s distribution skills soon had Munster back in the Leinster 22, as the expectant Cork crowd roared them on.
Nonetheless, the Blues were able to emerge unscathed from a further bout of Munster pressure, with Rob Russell hacking a loose Butler pass downfield in the 56th minute. The retreating Conway had to concede a five-metre scrum.
Leinster needed just two phases off the set piece to score, as Culhane carried up close before Mangan used McGrath’s pop pass to barge over beside the posts, in between the covering Nash and Ethan Coughlan. Tector tagged on the extras.
McGrath showed his experience to thwart an advancing Munster maul, bringing down Chris Moore to win turnover ball. Leinster grounded another drive soon after, aided by four of this year’s Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning pack.
Despite Will Connors snatching a turnover following a Kiely and Jack Daly-inspired break, the hosts replied with a sweetly-taken try off a midfield scrum with seven minutes remaining.
Replacement Fionn Gibbons carried hard to draw in defenders, offloading to Shane Daly who made it to the Leinster 22 – with two men in hot pursuit – before coolly releasing Kiely to slide in at the left corner.
Munster, whose next pre-season outing is a trip to Connacht in a fortnight’s time, missed out on a potential third try when a miscued lineout spoiled a penalty-winning scrum. Convincing winners on the night, Leinster also have a two-week gap before hosting Ulster at Navan RFC.
TIME LINE: 2 minutes – Munster try: Scott Buckley – 5-0; conversion: Tony Butler – 7-0; 9 mins – Leinster try: Jason Jenkins – 7-5; conversion: Ciarán Frawley – 7-7; 28 mins – Leinster try: Lee Barron – 7-12; conversion: missed by Ciarán Frawley – 7-12; 31 mins – Leinster try: Tommy O’Brien – 7-17; conversion: Ciarán Frawley – 7-19; 38 mins – Munster yellow card: Andrew Conway; 39 mins – Leinster try: Lee Barron – 7-24; conversion: Ciarán Frawley – 7-26; Half-time – Munster 7 Leinster 26; 57 mins – Leinster try: Diarmuid Mangan – 7-31; conversion: Charlie Tector – 7-33; 73 mins – Munster try: Stephen Kiely – 12-33; conversion: missed by Rory Scannell – 12-33; Full-time – Munster 12 Leinster 33
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Shane Daly, Rory Scannell, Calvin Nash; Tony Butler, Neil Cronin; Josh Wycherley, Scott Buckley, Stephen Archer, Gavin Coombes, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue (capt), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.
Replacements: Chris Moore, Kieran Ryan, John Ryan, Evan O’Connell, Jack Daly, Ruadhán Quinn, Ethan Coughlan, Fionn Gibbons, Stephen Kiely, Shay McCarthy.
LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Tommy O’Brien, Liam Turner, Ben Brownlee, Rob Russell; Ciarán Frawley, Cormac Foley; Jack Boyle, Lee Barron, Rory McGuire, Brian Deeny, Jason Jenkins, Max Deegan, Scott Penny (capt), James Culhane.
Replacements: Gus McCarthy, Paddy McCarthy, Temi Lasisi, Ross Molony, Conor O’Tighearnaigh, Diarmuid Mangan, Will Connors, Luke McGrath, Sam Prendergast, Charlie Tector, Andrew Osborne, Jamie Osborne, Aitzol King, Chris Cosgrave.
Referee: Peter Martin (IRFU)