Leinster shatter Munster's perfect run
October 2, 2010
Brian O'Driscoll's late try sealed victory for Leinster
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Brian O'Driscoll broke through for the decisive try as Leinster secured their fifth-straight win over Munster and ended their arch rivals' unbeaten start to the Magners League season with a 13-9 victory on Saturday night.
The first senior match at Irish rugby's resplendent new home, the Aviva Stadium, was a straight shootout between the place-kickers, until O'Driscoll moved Leinster ahead in the 70th minute.
Ronan O'Gara and Isa Nacewa struck a penalty apiece during a finely-balanced first half, before a brace from the Munster outside-half had the visitors 9-6 ahead. But Leinster dominated the closing stages and a slick offload from Sean O'Brien sent O'Driscoll scampering over to get Leinster's season back on track.
Three defeats in four Magners League games had put new Leinster coach Joe Schmidt under immediate pressure, and the visit of Munster to Dublin, with a 100% start behind them, spelled trouble.
A geed-up Munster won the early collisions, and a quick turnover led to a fourth minute penalty which O'Gara converted from inside the 22. Centres Lifeimi Mafi and Sam Tuitupou laid down a marker with some purposeful runs, but Leinster's defence stood up to the visitors' opening barrage and an O'Gara drop-goal was charged down by flanker O'Brien.
Some solid line-out work by Devin Toner and a midfield bust from Dominic Ryan helped Leinster get on the front foot and Nacewa, having missed his first shot at the posts, conjured up the game's first real line-break. He took advantage of a slip from Tuitupou to thunder into the Munster 22, with Gordon D'Arcy and Ryan in support. Munster scrambled back to cut off the options, eventually coughing up a penalty which Nacewa landed from in front of the posts.
It was nip and tuck for the remainder of the half, with the midfield suffocated and both sides guilty of losing their discipline at the breakdown. Johne Murphy threatened out wide on the left for Munster, the ball just beating him to touch after he had hacked on a clever chip through from Tomas O'Leary. O'Gara also missed a penalty on the left as the half closed with the sides level at 3-3.
Leinster full-back Rob Kearney tried his luck from a long range penalty, drawing it to the right and wide, and was then the victim of a high tackle from Mafi who was sent to the sin-bin. With O'Leary and Denis Leamy leading the charge, 14-man Munster responded strongly and O'Gara kicked them back in front, punishing D'Arcy for a ruck offence.
A trademark run and offload from O'Driscoll sent O'Brien storming towards the Munster line, with Richardt Strauss following up on a secondary drive. The pressure yielded a penalty which Nacewa slotted over for 6-6. Hands in the ruck from Strauss spoiled that good work and O'Gara effortlessly stroked over his third successful penalty, with just over 20 minutes remaining.
The game was there for the taking and Schmidt's side stepped up to the mark, pinning Munster back as they began to make better use of possession. O'Leary had to put a try-saving tackle in on O'Brien after a jinking run from Kearney. Tuitupou put in some earth-shuddering tackles in midfield, but O'Driscoll was beginning to find more space as the men in red tired.
With time running out, a chink in Munster's armour was found on the right wing where the impressive O'Brien burst past Paul Warwick and threw a backhanded pass out of the tackle for the supporting O'Driscoll to run in from the right. Nacewa added the extras and the four-point gap was enough to see Leinster complete their first five in-a-row over Munster since the 1930s.
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