Of all the games for Munster couldn’t afford to lose, it was this one against a second-string Leinster Rainbow Cup XV containing just three of the starters they used four weeks ago when they battered their Irish rivals into a 16-6 submission to win a fourth consecutive PRO14 title.
Essentially, with only Jordan Larmour, Dave Kearney and Andrew Porter included as repeat starters from the March 27 showpiece encounter, the door was left wide open for a far more familiar-looking Munster to take advantage and chalk up what was just their second win in 18 away matches versus Leinster.
They arrived with ten repeat starters and with all their stars togging out, they wielded a pedigree line-up in contrast to Leinster where the purpose of this opening round match in a gimmicky new tournament was to get minutes into the legs of the fit-again front-line duo Garry Ringrose and James Ryan ahead of next weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final at La Rochelle.
They each got the guts of an hour so the exercise was a success from that perspective, but there was little else positive for outfought Leinster to take from this 27-3 defeat. The only upside to these atmosphere-less behind-closed-doors RDS matches is how the audibility of the on-pitch collisions is crystal clear when sat in the grandstand about 20 rows away from the touchline.
Munster couldn’t handle the bruising repetitiveness of the likes of Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan in the carry four weeks ago. However, with these weapons and numerous others wrapped up safely for La Rochelle, it was the turn of the visitors to do the better, more consistent bashing in a game where two Conor Murray tries gave them a commanding 20-3 lead after the hour.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 24, 2021
A penalty try then wrapped it all up in a match where inexperienced referee Chris Busby had his work cut out keeping a lid on tempers while there were also multiple handling errors not in keeping with the excellent blue sky conditions. Here is how the Leinster and Munster players rated in this Rainbow Cup opener:
15. JORDAN LARMOUR – 6
Sharp as a tack when hitting Exeter where it hurt the last day in Europe, he was foxed here by the direction of Damian de Allende’s running for the opening Murray score. Was on the ball often, clocking up the metres, but his dancing feet didn’t have the required magic.
14. DAVE KEARNEY – 5
We love ‘boring’ Dave Kearney here at RugbyPass as he has become the consummate Leinster pro beneath Test level, churning out goodness nearly every week. This was an exception, though, as he had a very subdued night.
13. GARRY RINGROSE – 6
A first outing since his March 14 injury for Ireland at Scotland, there was rustiness in defence while he also lost the ball in one first-half collision with Chris Farrell. Got 58 minutes in, though, which was the purpose of the exercise.
12. RORY O’LOUGHLIN – 5
Was defensively exposed at Sandy Park and wasn’t rock solid here up against the industrious de Allende. For instance, knocked on cheaply when carrying in the Munster 22 on 29 minutes.
11. JAMES LOWE – 5
By far the loudest person in the RDS, his constant shouted instructions were unmissable throughout. Helped out with the tactical kicking but wasn’t a major influence otherwise.
10. HARRY BYRNE – N/A
The most hyped rookie in the last while and someone fresh from hooking up with a new agent in ex-international Niall Woods, he was sadly gone on five minutes when injured as Murray opened the score. His equally young replacement Dave Hawkshaw was no slouch but no match-winner either as evidenced in a missed penalty before the break.
9. HUGH O’SULLIVAN – 6
A first start since February 2019 for a young player used to subbing, he was pick-pocketed by Peter O’Mahony for the possession that led to Munster’s opening try. Could have crumbled because of that but produced a high work rate, carrying often as well as showing a slick pass.
1. ED BYRNE – 5
Now an Ireland international, we have been waiting for this guy to step up and command more consistently. He did initially in winning a penalty at the game’s first scrum. Was hurt when cleared out just before the break by Jack O’Donoghue. Then had the ball taken from him in a try-line carry on 48 minutes. Also made the wrong decision when showing in support nine minutes later.
2. DAN SHEEHAN – 6
If people think Ronan Kelleher is the real deal, what to think of this novice who is touted as potentially being an even better player? He lost an early lineout throw but wasn’t discomforted by it. Showed an eye for a clean break, too, at one stage.
3. ANDREW PORTER – 6
Enjoyed a high tackle count but was hooked before the result was settled by Murray’s second try.
4. ROSS MOLONY – 5
A proper clubman in that he rarely underperforms when given a chance, but this outing was an exception as Munster had too many bullies in the traffic.
5. JAMES RYAN – 7
Was only due to start from the bench following recovery from his concussion issues, but the captain’s run calf muscle injury suffered by chosen No8 Caelan Doris led to a reshuffle. Was wound up for it, his prompt sparking an early bust-up. It was then his carry that led to Leinster getting a first-half penalty for points while one flying tackle on Keith Earls was fantastic. Generated most reaction, though, for his response when danced on illegally by Stephen Archer.
6. RYAN BAIRD – 5
So much positive stuff has been said lately about this guy but he brought an unloaded pistol to this gunfight. His display was summed up in two second-half gaffes, taking Joey Carbery out off the ball to concede penalty points and then knocking on cheaply soon after.
7. SCOTT PENNY – 6
A definite first-choice player if he was at another club, he was the sparkiest operator in a Leinster back row that endured the rare experience of getting collectively outfought.
8. JOSH MURPHY – 5
Switched to No8 from blindside to allow for the late absence of Doris, he was on a similar wavelength to Baird in that Munster had too much energy on this occasion.
? Your Guinness Player of the Match ?
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 24, 2021
15. MIKE HALEY – 5
Quiet night as the Leinster attack didn’t pose many questions while Munster’s attack wasn’t of a mind to go wide either.
14. KEITH EARLS – 5
Waited 19 minutes to get a first proper touch, running a sweet support line off scrum ball that ultimately led to a penalty. A second break would have featured wide-open some minutes spaces had Ryan not hauled him down near halfway.
13. CHRIS FARRELL – 6
Suffers from the crash ball label. Couldn’t recycle cleanly from one first-half carry in the 22 but he was physical in the collisions which was what Munster badly needed.
12. DAMIAN DE ALLENDE – 8
It was his scorching break that sent Munster on their way to this rare Dublin win. Aside from one dead duck touch-finder off a quick first half throw, he had way too much class in the locker for undercooked Leinster.
11. SHANE DALY – 5
Big night for the youngster but this was a game that mostly took place away from him.
10. JOEY CARBERY – 7
Was clearly rusty four weeks ago after so long out of big games, but he enjoyed this Leinster rematch. Kicked his points when needed, directed the play smartly and his level of growing confidence was seen in how he even caught his own second-half kick in the traffic.
9. CONOR MURRAY – 8
Touted as a Lions Test starter, he looked like one for much of this contest. He brought a varied game, scored two tries and bar one ugly first-half box-kick that travelled back towards him, it was an excellent night’s work.
1. DAVE KILCOYNE – 7
Upgraded from the PRO14 final bench, he brought a nuisance value encapsulated by the first-half rip when O’Loughlin carried in the Munster 22.
2. NIALL SCANNELL – 6
Has looked like a player who has reached the ceiling in his career for quite a while. Had his first throw stolen here but he stuck at it and wasn’t below average as was the case last month.
3. STEPHEN ARCHER – 5
Another bench upgrade from last month, he doesn’t make life easy for himself. Gave away a penalty at the game’s first scrum and was then the culprit who did an old school rucking jig on the prone Ryan which earned him a yellow card just before the break.
4. JEAN KLEYN – 6
His ongoing presence makes the signing for next season of fellow South African Jason Jenkins rather baffling. A loose first-half pass could have swung momentum against Munster but he was more of a physical presence here than four weeks ago.
5. TADHG BEIRNE – 8
With so many listing this fella in the first Test Lions XV, never mind in the squad, he would have wanted to live up to the hype and he did, stealing lineouts and being a constant visible annoyance to Leinster in his no-number shirt and eye-catching blue scrum cap.
6. PETER O’MAHONY – 7
Left the RDS with a leg wound the last time, but quickly announced his return by stealing from O’Sullivan to manufacture the opening try. Regularly pressured the Leinster lineout and managed the referee well in some tricky instances.
7. JACK O’DONOGHUE – 7
Didn’t noticeably figure until penalised for a clear-out on Byrne near the break, it was his turnover of a Byrne carry near the try line early in the second half with the score poised at 10-3 that was critical.
8. CJ STANDER – 7
A final opportunity for him to do something before the Lions squad is announced on May 6, he enjoyed himself here bashing into Leinster contact that was more easily dented than the likes of Conan and Ruddock were last time out.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) April 24, 2021
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