Munster maintained their push for Magners League honours with a 22-5 win over Leinster at a full house Thomond Park Stadium on Saturday.
Two Ronan O’Gara penalties had them 6-0 up at half time and O’Gara doubled that lead with his third penalty three minutes after the restart and a sublime drop-goal in the 54th minute. At that stage Munster were in command, made sure of victory with a marvellous Keith Earls try and put the icing on the cake when Barry Murphy fed Denis Fogarty the try scoring pass with eight minutes remaining. Just before that Gordon D’Arcy had registered Leinster’s one and only score of a game largely dominated by Munster with O’Gara pressing all the right buttons and at the right times.
The first scoring opportunity of the game fell to Felipe Contepomi after just three minutes but the soon to depart Argentine fluffed his lines as he was to do all evening. It was a thoroughly miserable night for the good doctor who once again had to watch and wither as his opposite number gave him a masterclass in out-half play. O’Gara kept the scoreboard ticking over nicely, notching three penalties and a drop-goal as well as conjuring up some superb touch finds.
At 12-0 up, the game itself was, to all intents and purposes, up for Leinster even though 25 minutes remained such as the control of the Munster pack and the defensive commitment of the team in red. The outcome however was put way beyond doubt thanks to an excellent off-load and the brilliance of Munster’s left wing Keith Earls. Former Leinster player Niall Ronan was collared just inside the Leinster half but off-loaded to the touchline hugging Earls. The winger managed to shrug of the attentions of Cian Healy, skip easily past Chris Whitaker and round the dithering tackle of Rob Kearney for a superb try.
O’Gara dragged the conversion to the left of the posts and although Shane Horgan breached the Munster defensive line to put D’Arcy through there was never a doubt about the outcome. Barry Murphy, a 65th minute replacement for Ian Dowling, was orchestrator of Munster’s second try. He took O’Gara pass close to the touchline, skinned Shane Horgan on the outside and with Kearney in two minds, Murphy delayed his pass perfectly to give Fogarty a clear run to the line.
After the game Dowling, clearly delighted with the victory and his unscated return to action commented, “I was delighted to get back out there and I’ve got to thank the Irish and Munster physios for getting me back so quickly. Once I sustained the injury my only thought were to get back for this game and I owe the medics and fitness staff for making that possible. Munster is a special place. You have to earn the jersey the hard way which means you have to go out and prove yourself everytime. “
Munster: P Warwick; D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, I Dowling (B Murphy 65 min) R O’Gara (D Hurley 76 min), T O’Leary (P Stringer 65 min); M Horan, J Flannery ( D Fogarty 71 min), J Hayes (T Buckley 66 min, Hayes 71 min); D O’Callaghan (M O’Driscoll 69), P O’Connell capt; A Quinlan, N Ronan (D Ryan 66), D Wallace.
Leinster: G Dempsey; I Nacewa, G D’Arcy, S Horgan, R Kearney; F Contepomi, C Whitaker; C Healy, B Jackman, S Wright; L Cullen capt, M O’Kelly; R Elsom, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements: J Fogarty, R McCormack, T Hogan, C Jowitt, S O’Brien, J Sexton, S Keogh
Referee: C Berdos (France).