Munster revive Ireland's greatest rivalry by dishing out beating to Leinster
MUNSTER - 26
LEINSTER - 17
Munster rediscovered their bite and bile to dole out a beating to 14-man Leinster at Thomond Park and reawaken an old rivalry that was in danger of fading away.
A rugby match broke out in the second half but we will be long talking about a first half that bubbled and frothed from the very first collision.
There were signs as early as the second minute that this one was going to be spicy, as Munster flanker Fineen Wycherley rushed out of the defensive line to clatter Johnny Sexton. A brief melee ensued but that was only the beginning.
There were three other stand-offs and scraps in the first half alone while Leinster ran afoul of referee Frank Murphy. The Cork native made 15 appearances for Munster, his native province, early in his career but he should not be accused of favouring the hosts with his carding decisions in the first 40.
Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong were both sin-binned for high tackles while James Lowe saw red after he never got off his feet to contest a high ball and sent the airborne Andrew Conway dangerously spinning.
In the middle of the mayhem, there were two Joey Carbery penalties, a Sexton penalty and a rolling maul try for Chris Cloete, who was later stretchered off.
Munster ended the half well on top and with their fans baying for more. HALF-TIME: Munster 13-3 Leinster
It is EXPLODING at Thomond Park!!
Another melee and Johnny gets in Joey Carbery's face! pic.twitter.com/L8JZyCJqzh
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) December 29, 2018
The second half began with Carbery extending Munster's lead with another well-struck penalty but Leinster knuckled down and worked their way up the pitch, and into a scoring position.
Ball claimed from a five-metre lineout, Leinster hooker James Tracy was transferred the ball and it was he that dotted down under a pile of bodies. Sexton converted to make it 16-10 with half an hour to go.
A big moment arrived around the hour mark, however. Leinster brought on Ciaran Frawley for Johnny Sexton just as they looked to be right back in the fight. Sexton looked bemused at the call but he was soon pictured on TV with an ice-pack on his calf.
The very next play of the game, with Frawley on, saw the Munster scrum demolish Leinster's. It felt like a seismic moment and Munster kept up the pressure. Murphy awarded them another penalty and Carbery made it 19-10 with 15 minutes to go.
Leinster turned down a relatively simple penalty, on 70 minutes, to kick for an attacking lineout. That decision back-fired as Frawley's pass - intended for Jordan Larmour - was intercepted by Keith Earls, who scorched home from 90-metres to seal the contest.
There was a consolation try for Max Deegan but the day was Munster's, and deservedly so.
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: CJ Stander (Munster)