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Cracker In Store

October 6, 2012 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

There’s a very perceptable buzz around D4 this afternoon as the crowds gather to get in the mood for the eagerly anticipated clash of Munster and Leinster this evening (6.30pm).

Games between the sides may not have always produced the type of display that the purists would like but nevertheless are never less than enthralling and always worth the entrance fee.

At last count there were 44,00o tickets sold and the unusually clement weather may entice even more out to witness this RaboDirect PRO12 clash.

The Munster squad, billetted in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Stillorgan went for a stroll and a cup of coffee mid morning and are expected to leave their hotel for the ground at 4.45.

There had been talk earlier in the week of the possibility of Paul O'Connell making his return tonight but that's not the case, though there was good news when Damien Varley did make the squad although any chance he may have had of grabbing the number 2 shirt certainly disappeared when he had to miss the final squad training session to go instead to Edinburgh.

It's an entirely appropriate occasion for Doug Howlett to win his 100th cap while Declan Kidney will no doubt be in attendance to see Peter O'Mahony and Donnacha Ryan makes their first starts of the season.

Leinster: I Madigan; A Conway, B O’Driscoll, F McFadden, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, M Ross; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements : S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, T Denton, J Murphy, J Cooney, N Reid, F Carr.

Munster : D Hurley; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo; R O’Gara, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, D Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, P O’Mahony. Replacements : D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, B Holland, P Butler, D Williams, I Keatley, J Downey.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU).

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Munster’s Effort Deserved More

October 7, 2012 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

While there can be little doubt about the merit of Leinster’s 30-21 victory over Munster, the southern side could be considered unlucky to have left for home empty handed.

Because not only did they contribute handsomely to an enthralling RaboDirect PRO12 contest but came from what looked a very perilous situation, 30-14 down after 56 minutes, to come within inches or perhaps better still a dubious decision, in the closing stages of scoring a third try.

That decision came after Conor Murray had dotted down in the left hand corner to make the score 30-19. Strangely, referee Leighton Hodges had to go 'upstairs' for confirmation of Murray's score, his assistant on that side of the field unable to confirm the score but Ian Keatley's superb touchline conversion left nine points separating the sides with 12 minutes remaining.

Munster had the opportunity to reduce the deficit further when they were awarded a penalty on the same side but they opted for the corner for a catch and drive that, to their credit, Leinster resisted.

However a few phases later Munster went right and wide. Keith Earls made the break only to be hauled down just short and when the ball popped up Casey Laulala was on hand to grab and score. The whistle had sounded and the expectation was there'd be an adjudication but instead the call was for a knock-on though subsequent video replays showed no evidence of that.

Leinster were out of the blocks sharply and Richardt Strauss had them in front when he twisted over to ground for a try under the posts with just four minutes gone. Munster's response was immediate and brilliant with Mick Sherry and Laulala showing great hands to send Simon Zebo racing for the whitewash. When Zebo was tackled he got the pass away to the supporting Peter O'Mahony for a try.

Ronan O'Gara then kicked his side in front with a 10th minute penalty and swopped penalties with Jonathan Sexton to keep Munster in front before Ian Madigan's 21st minute try converted by Sexton widened the gap to six points.

Two more penalties apiece and the sides went in at the break with Leinster in front 20-14.

Decisive incidents at the start of the second half came in the opneing ten minutes when an O'Gara penalty came back off an upright, Sexton then landed one for what amounted to a six point turnaround and Donncha O'Callaghan was forced off with a groin injury.

Shortly after, Brian O'Driscoll stretched to score despite a smashing Denis Hurley tackle and Damien Varley, only just on as a replacement for Sherry, literally took one for the team, when he was yellow carded. “It (the card) was really hard on Varls today. ” Rob Penney said afterwards. ” The team warning went out (from the referee). He came on, committed to a breakdown, lost his feet, tried to open up. And at that point the referee'd just had enough obviously. He got the yellow card but it was probably other perpetrators earlier on that did silly things that got reffed to that point where he wanted to shoot a yellow card. Certainly no fingers pointed at Varls.” 

And at that stage it looked ominous but to their great credit Munster refused to buckle. They were helped by their inspirational skipper Doug Howlett who stopped a certain fourth try with a crunching tackle close to his line when Leinster had men over. A score at that stage and the floodgates might well have opened.

Instead it seemed Howlett's effort galvanised the side and, except for one break-out, they owned an end game that stretched the Leinster defence to breaking point. But not quite.

“It's a real shame we're not leaving without a point.” Penney said at the post match Press briefing.” I'm really rapt with the guy's attitude towards that last ten minutes. They fought hard to get themselves back into the game and they backed themselves to do well in that last lineout rather than have a shot at goal.

“The pragmatist in me says we should have taken that shot at goal. But it's certainly not something we'll be spending too much time on because the lads backed themselves to play and as I say the opportunity where Casey scored would have been interesting if it had gone to TMO, we might have ended up with the bonus point anyway.”

Leinster: I Madigan; A Conway (J Cooney 65), B O'Driscoll (N Reid 64), F McFadden, I Nacewa (F Carr 55); J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, R Strauss (S Cronin 57), M Ross (J Hagan 65), D Browne (T Denton 73), D Toner, K McLaughlin (J Murphy 12), J Heaslip (capt), S Jennings.

Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, C Laulala, S Zebo (J Downey 65); R O'Gara (I Keatley 60),C Murray; D Kilcoyne (W du Preez 57), M Sherry (D Varley 51 yc 54-64), BJ Botha, Donncha O'Callaghan (B Holland 49), D Ryan, Dave O'Callaghan (P Butler 70), P O'Mahony, S Dougall.

Referee: L Hodges (Wales).

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