A STUNNING FIRST half saw Munster power to a 34-23 victory over Leinster at the Aviva Stadium to get their Guinness Pro12 campaign on track, as they held off a late Leinster resurgence.
In doing so, Munster won in Dublin for the first time since 2008.
Anthony Foley’s men brought a savage intensity and aggression to the capital with them, clearly stung by the recent criticism that has come their way after defeats to Edinburgh and the Ospreys.
Their ferocious physicality allowed them dominance over Leinster for large periods, as Matt O’Connor’s side delivered a disappointing display until they were backed into a deep corner.
Ian Keatley directed Munster expertly from out-half and chipped in with an intercept try, while Paul O’Connell’s disregard for his own body was inspirational in front of a crowd of 43,817 at the Aviva Stadium.
A remarkable first-half performance saw Munster head in at the break with a 28-9 lead. Tries from James Cronin, Robin Copeland and Keatley rewarded their utter physical dominance of Leinster, as well as an extremely direct attacking game plan.
Madigan and Keatley traded two penalties a piece in the opening quarter as both sides found their feet, but suddenly it was Munster who toppled Leinster off balance.
The southern province attacked Leinster around the fringes with pick and gos, short runners off nine, carrying from man of the match Conor Murray himself and clever offloads when they got the hands free.
Loosehead James Cronin stretched out a long left arm to dot down, confirmed by the TMO, to send Munster 11-6 up in the 19th minute. Keatley missed the conversion, but slotted a long-range penalty shortly after when the Munster scrum came out on top.
Copeland was next over the whitewash for Munster, diving in from close-range after another series of pick and gos, allowing Keatley to convert from under the posts. Madigan briefly stemmed the overwhelming tide with a 36th-minute penalty, but then Keatley pounced before the interval.
The Munster out-half picked off Jimmy Gopperth’s intended inside pass and glided clear from the half-way line to score under the posts, converting his own try for that 28-9 lead at half-time.
Keatley had another chance off the tee early in the second period, after Munster’s scrum again achieved dominance and Mike Ross was pinged. From the 50 metres out, the out-half’s scuffed effort fell short and wide.
Munster’s physicality was taking its toll on Leinster though, with Ross forced to hobble off. Replacement Tahdg Furlong lasted only five minutes before exiting himself, with Michael Bent switching over to tighthead and Ed Byrne coming on.
Rob Kearney, having dropped to the bench just before kick-off, was called into action and scurried down the left with one of his first involvements. Leinster grabbed some of the momentum and drove themselves back into Munster territory.
Yellow cards for Damien Varley and then BJ Botha reduced Munster to 13 men, as they looked to kill Leinster’s mini-resurgence. That numerical disadvantage told when Darragh Fanning burst through midfield to score under the posts after a short Gopperth pass, with Madigan converting for a 28-16 scoreline.
Munster fought back into Leinster’s half and Davies gave Keatley another chance to kick for goal when he caught the home side blocking Munster’s kick chase off a Murray box kick. Keatley slotted the opportunity to stretch it back to 31-16.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Leinster secured a penalty try from their maul. Dave Foley was caught dragging it down as Leinster surged towards the tryline, and Davies didn’t hesitate to reach for another yellow. Madigan again converted.
Munster refused to let up, however, and a superb drive led by replacement Peter O’Mahony saw them secure another penalty. Sub out-half Hanrahan did the business from 36 metres out to put his side 34-23 up with just three minutes left.
Murray was binned, a remarkable fourth yellow in the second half for Munster, but Foley’s men saw out the victory.
Tries: D Fanning, Penalty try
Conversions: I Madigan [2 from 2]
Penalties: I Madigan [3 from 3]
Tries: J Cronin, R Copeland, I Keatley
Conversions: I Keatley [2 from 3]
Penalties: I Keatley [4 from 5], JJ Hanrahan [1 from 1]
Fergus McFadden (Mick McGrath ’15)
Brendan Macken (Rob Kearney ’48)
Eoin Reddan (Isaac Boss ’46-’54, ’62)
Sean Cronin (Bryan Byrne ’66)
Mike Ross (Tadhg Furlong ’45) (Ed Byrne ’50)
Mike McCarthy (Kane Douglas ’50)
Dominic Ryan (Jack Conan ’75)
Jamie Heaslip (capt.)
Felix Jones (capt.);