Leinster claim bragging rights as Munster's poor run continues

A festive fixture that had a lot on the line for both sides ended with

BY Adrian Collins 19:48 Sunday 27 December 2015, 19:48 27 Dec 2015

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

An early try for Leinster gave Leo Cullen's side a platform to build from as they claimed a 7-24 victory over hosts Munster in Thomond Park. 

Starting in the number 13 jersey for just the second time, it didn't take long for Garry Ringrose to show exactly what has made him such an exciting prospect for the province. 

He picked the ball up with just six minutes on the clock and carried for the guts of 60 yards with some explosive running, before handing off to captain Isa Nacewa to touch the ball down and give Leinster a dream start.

Ian Madigan made no mistake with the conversion, giving Leinster a seven point lead. Ten minutes later, it was Madigan again who added to the lead after Munster were penalised for coming in from the side. He made no mistake from about 30 metres out, curling the ball in between the posts to make it 0-10. 

Things were beginning to look bleak for Anthony Foley's side at that point, but they gradually found a footing in the game by going through the phases. They looked to have crossed the line through Mike Sherry's good work, but the TMO judged that it had been held up. Not to be denied, however, they kept pressure on Leinster and eventually went over through Robin Copeland, with the try being awarded after consultation with the TMO again. 

There were more worrying moments for Munster in the build up as Keith Earls was down with what appeared to be a blow to the head. He was taken off the field in the stretcher, and raised his arm to the crowd afterwards,  but the full extent of the injury has yet to be revealed. 

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Rory Scannell slotted over the conversion, and the score remained 7-10 at the half. For a period after the break, it looked as though it was going to be a repeat of the performance against Toulon, as Leinster were under sustained pressure for the opening 10 minutes, remaining firmly camped in their own half. 

Even when they did win the ball back, it was turned over too easily, as Munster looked to get their kicking game in order, finding space in behind the back line and giving the fans in Thomond something to cheer about, having spent the majority of the first half on the back foot. 

However, they opted to kick for the corner on two occasions instead of taking the points, and failed to find the try that would have given them the advantage on the scoreboard. A penalty would have drawn them level, but having skewed an early opportunity from relatively close range badly wide, Scannell did not get the vote of confidence to kick Munster back into the game.

Aside from that miss, he had a very strong game and clearly settled in after those early nerves dissipated. With Ian Keatley's confidence dented, it could be Scannell who makes the kicking duties his own from here. 

Image:  ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

It was Leinster who were to cross the try line next, as a beautiful cross-field kick from Madigan found Nacewa in acres of space on Munster's right side, and he gained ground, pushing towards the line. A few phases later, Jack McGrath carried over and touched the ball down.

The return of Tommy O'Donnell will be one positive for Munster fans to take from the defeat at home this evening, adding to their poor run. He received a huge cheer as he made his first appearance since dislocating his hip in a World Cup warm-up game for Ireland against Wales back in August, and made it through the closing stages of the game unscathed.

What will worry them will be the nature of some of the mistakes made, including turning over the ball at crucial times from handling errors or poor lineout ball at crucial moments. 

A late try from Zane Kirchner, who intercepted a pass as Munster looked to try and grab a late consolation, added gloss to the scoreline in spectacular fashion as he broke away and sprinted the almost the entire length of the pitch to touch down between the posts. Madigan slotted over the conversion and gave Leinster an emphatic 7-24 win. 

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

With both sides in a bad run of form, the victory will provide some relief for Leo Cullen, as Leinster push up to third in the table, four points off Scarlets at the top. Out of Europe, the concentration has to be on getting back to the top table and setting their sights on the top spots.

The dreaded "crisis" tag is still hanging over the heads of Foley and his Munster squad now, as they slip down to sixth in the table. Talk of it being a transitional period means that there may still be some patience for the team in the tank, but it could be wearing thin as they looked blunt in attack this evening with too many mistakes made.

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