Leinster overcome Munster in thrilling eight-try battle at Thomond Park

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 today.

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, after a sluggish start from the hosts allowed 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.

Pic: Sportsfile

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.

Pic: Sportsfile

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.

Pic: Sportsfile

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.

Pic: Sportsfile

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.

Pic: Sportsfile

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 the visitors' bench, which included Tadhg Furlong and Josh van der Flier, helped them seal their second season double over Munster in three years.

MUNSTER v LEINSTER in 60 seconds

by Simon Lewis

Key moment: Jordan Larmour's 70th-minute try was the score of the game and broke Munster hearts but it was Andrew Conway's first-half yellow card that did the damage. Leinster were awarded a penalty try on the back of his off the ball tackle on James Lowe and the punishment was doubled two minutes later when Robbie Henshaw scored in the 23rd minute to open up a 27-5 lead after Ross Byrne's conversion, too much for Munster to reel in.

Talking point: What a talent Larmour is. Still 21 and learning his trade in the Leinster academy, the full-back laid down an early marker of his potential with a try that showcased a wide skill set, catching Ian Keatley's Garryowen and beating three players with great feet and spatial awareness and then showing the physicality to touch down under heavy pressure from Simon Zebo's desperate tackle. One to watch.

Key man: In a match-up of two all-Irish international back rows, Leinster openside Dan Leavy threw down the gauntlet in the first minute with an excellent turnover and penalty gained to get his team up and running with three points from Ross Byrne in the second minute, His try in the ninth minute extended Leinster's lead and Leavy's presence at the breakdown caused the home side problems all evening long. A well deserving man of the match award.

Ref watch: Nigel Owens took charge of a rollercoaster Irish derby with little fuss, although Leinster's first try was met with displeasure by the home support after a perceived obstruction in midfield as James Lowe carried into traffic.

Injuries: Keith Earls and Rhys Marshall were late withdrawals pre-kick off. Ireland wing Earls, poised for his first start back following a hamstring injury, reported sick while hooker Marshall reported further symptoms from the concussion suffered in the home win over Leicester Tigers on December 9. Leinster's casualties were in-game with captain for the night Jack McGrath replaced at half-time following a head knock. Fellow forwards James Ryan limped off with an ankle problem and replacement hooker Richardt Strauss lasted just 12 minutes before succumbing to a back injury.

Next up: The PRO14 derby season in the Guinness PRO14 continues as Leinster welcome Connacht to the RDS on New Year's Day while Munster travel to Ravenhill to welcome in 2018 on the same day as they visit Ulster in Belfast.


 

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