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Leinster player ratings vs Munster | 2023 URC semi-final

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster players ratings live from Aviva Stadium: The expectation was that this semi-final fixture would deliver its traditional Munster beating in Dublin, a pattern that has been in existence in this tournament since October 2014.


Dramatically not so as a Leinster XV that contained just three starters who ran out for the Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse a fortnight earlier were on duty here and it left the hosts exposed for a dramatic 16-15 ambush sealed with a 78th-minute Jack Crowley drop goal.

Not since December 2018 had Munster eclipsed Leinster in a PRO16/URC league fixture, a dastardly sequence that included two lost semi-finals and also defeat in the March 2021 final of a pandemic-shortened campaign.

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But having picked off a 14-man Glasgow on the road last weekend, the visitors went on to ask this curious Leinster XV selection more questions than it ultimately could answer.

Rugby needs uncertainty, not foregone conclusions, and with this all-Irish contest demanding that Munster have a cut, royally entertaining jeopardy materialised in a rip-roaring encounter.

Munster led 6-3 for 14 first-half minutes and then 13-10 for 17 minutes before it looked like a defiant Leinster would sneak the win with their 63rd-minute Joe McCarthy try. However, a missed conversion crucially left the door ajar.

Graham Rowntree’s team pounced at the death to secure a final away to the Stormers in Cape Town and leave the hosts ruing an undercooked performance from an understrength XV ahead of next weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup final. Here are the Leinster player ratings:


15. Jimmy O’Brien – 6 (Ciaran Frawley – 5)
Shunted into touch five metres out with an early carry but grew from there, exhibiting some sound defensive judgement and demonstrating a slick kick chase. Pity he only lasted a half, his place taken by Frawley who crucially missed the conversion that set up Munster for their last-gasp winner.

14. Tommy O’Brien – 6
Back from an ACL, he started with a fine catch but an unfortunate deflection under another dropping ball was enough to scrub out a Ryan Baird try. Defended well and had the crowd on its feet for one chase to the line but he couldn’t gather cleanly to score.

13. Robbie Henshaw – 7
First action in five weeks since injury against Leicester, he got stuck into the rough and tumble and it was his assist, a sweet pass out of the contact on the 22, that created the first-half Jason Jenkins try. Lifted the crowd with a tackle in the dying stages on Keith Earls but it wasn’t enough.

12. Charlie Ngatai – 6.5
Came into his own in recent weeks and on his third consecutive start, he maintained that industry. Ran his socks off – look at one chase back to tidy, step out of danger and kick clear – but his 78 minutes of effort couldn’t make the key difference. Liam Turner finished in the role.


11. Dave Kearney – 5.5
Having announced in midweek his exit from the club after 14 years, he initially reveled in the occasion and put his immense experience to first-half use shutting down space on defence and being evasive with mazy attacking carries. Much quieter in the second half.

10. Harry Byrne – 6.5
Demonstrated encouraging maturity in easing Leinster past the Sharks, this was a much tougher assignment. Swing lead-taking momentum his team’s way with a canny kick that put the pressure on for the McCarthy try, but ultimately couldn’t close the deal.

9. Luke McGrath – 6
Another old stager whose experience initially came to the fore, especially when Leinster were under the first-half cosh. Munster will argue he should have been yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on at the 22 by the captain for the day dodged that sanction. Played 68 minutes before Nick McCarthy came on.

1. Michael Milne – 5
A try-scorer in the quarters, this was a more testing occasion with tit-for-tat in the first-half scrum exchanges before he was hooked for Cian Healy seven minutes into the second half.

2. Ronan Kelleher – 7
His first start since January endured a difficult start with penalties and a crooked lineout, but he didn’t roll over and his huge tackle count was rewarded when he was at the heart of a crucial try-saving spill with Munster 6-3 up and pressing hard. Kept trucking after the interval, lasting until the 65th minute before John McKee was called on.

3. Michael Ala’alatoa – 5.5
He won’t like it being said but Stephen Archer was the better, all-round tighthead. Young Thomas Clarkson was busy after his 71st-minute entry, even helping to win a scrum.

4. Ryan Baird – 8
Massively athletic, a deflection off Tommy O’Brien scrubbed out the try that he ran in from halfway at 3-all. Got through a mountain of grunt work but not enough teammates in the forwards matched his standard.


5. Jason Jenkins – 6.5
Up against his old club, his defensive work in the first half was eye-catching as was his excellently taken try. Played 59 before McCarty entered, the impressive sub quickly scoring a try and winning a breakdown penalty.

6. Max Deegan – 6
Went the 80 but didn’t stand out in the battle of inches.

7. Will Connors – No rating (Josh van der Flier – 8)
Sadly lasted just a single minute as his head jarringly crashed off the floor after carrying into the double tackle of Diarmuid Barron and John Hodnett. World player of the year van der Flier made a handy replacement, quickly winning a turnover penalty and thriving from there. His snagging of Craig Casey to deny a break for a likely try was class. Like Baird, didn’t deserve to lose.

8. Jack Conan – 7
Some good defensive interventions and a high tackle count, especially in the first half.


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