Jack Crowley kicks last-gasp drop goal to seal stunning Munster victory
LEINSTER 15-16 MUNSTER
Jack Crowley was the coolest man in Dublin as he slotted a late, late drop goal to stun Leinster in the United Rugby Championship semi-finals.
It was rich reward for Munster and Crowley held his nerve to dash Leinster's dreams of URC glory.
The first half was held up on several occasions due to injuries and blood stoppages. The most serious injury befell Will Connors, who lasted only 70 seconds and was stetchered off after an awkward fall.
A nod to Leinster's strength in depth came when World Rugby Player of the Year, Josh van der Flier was sprung from the bench to replace Connors. The openside had two early turnovers and Harry Byrne kicked a penalty but there was little else for the Leinster supporters to cheer.
Ben Healy had two successful penalties, putting Munster 6-3 ahead, but Graham Rowntree's side spurned kicks at goal then had some costly errors and lapses that cost them tries. As if to liberally add salt to that wound, Jason Jenkins powered over to score a try on a rare Leinster break before half-time. HALF-TIME: Leinster 10-6 Munster.
Tadhg Beirne lights Munster's fire
Munster came out firing in the second half and sensed that pack domination was on their side. So it proved as they put Leinster under pressure and camped out in their 22.
After a few minutes of relentless pressure, Tadhg Beirne picked and charged, with half his pack-mates latched on. Referee Frank Murphy took a few beats to assess the situation before raising his hand for a Munster try.
That score put Munster 13-10 ahead and captain Peter O'Mahony again opted to kick for the line rather than take the points on offer, from the tee, when Murphy whistled for another penalty in their favour. Leinster were clinging on but Max Deegan, for the second time in the match, made a big steal that thwarted Munster.
Mike Haley then needed every last ounce of will and pace to hare back and deny Tommy O'Brien what would have been a sensational kick-chase try. Leinster regrouped, though, and Joe McCarthy powered over from close range to put his side 15-13 ahead.
Leinster 15-13 Munster: Joe McCarthy bashes his way over a stubborn Munster defence to put Leinster back in front, but they can’t add the extras. #RTErugby
📺 Watch on @RTE2 & https://t.co/OIsnQ76QnT
📱 Follow https://t.co/4c446IqbvX
📻 Listen https://t.co/CIxLsTSL49 pic.twitter.com/xfabBayDX6
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) May 13, 2023
Leinster looked well set to eat the clock, with six minutes to go, when Robbie Henshaw laid out Keith Earls with a superb, well-timed tackle.
The advantage was lost with a Joe McCarthy knock-on, though, and Munster had the pill with three minutes to go and either a penalty or drop goal (or try) to win it.
The play was called for a drop goal and Jack Crowley slotted it over coolly to put his side ahead.
Munster had a late penalty to survive but they did it and wound down the clock to stun their old rivals.
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: Antoine Frisch (Munster)
WATCH HOUSE OF RUGBY HERE:
- Connacht's soft-spoken hero destroys Ulster to put his side into semi-finals
- Mack Hansen up against three Leinster stars for Players' Player of the Year
- Johnny Sexton's most cherished jersey swap shows how seriously he takes his rugby
- Terenure star's memorable post-match interview sparks brilliant 'second chance' idea
- The Jacques Nienaber team talk that had Munster players straining at the leash