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Munster player ratings vs Leinster | 2023/24 URC round six

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

Munster player ratings live from Aviva Stadium: Twenty-seven weeks after Munster ambushed Leinster in Dublin, surprisingly winning a URC semi-final in a city where they hadn’t beaten the hosts since 2014, the bragging rights in this reignited Irish rivalry were restored to Leo Cullen’s side on a 21-16 scoreline.

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With seasoned back-rowers Peter O’Mahony and Jack O’Donoghue unavailable for selection following knocks in last weekend’s grind versus the Stormers, Munster compromised by giving lock Tom Ahern a first start in the blindside role.

The inclusion of three academy players among the replacements – Brian Gleeson, Tony Butler and Shay McCarthy – further highlighted how thin their resources were for this round six encounter, but they gave it socks the whole way through and were especially great value for an early 10-0 lead that included a fantastic team try finished off by Craig Casey after they exploited Garry Ringrose’s missed tackle on Simon Zebo.

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Indiscipline against a stacked Leinster lineup soon bit them, though. They were missing the yellow-carded Rory Scannell when Jamison Gibson-Park grabbed his cheap riposte from a terrible Tadhg Beirne error, and a penalty punted to touch five metres out after the sin-bin had elapsed then let to the converted Dan Sheehan try that have Leinster their 14-10 interval lead.

The second period was a half with regular momentum shifts. Munster intriguingly cut the gap to one point with a 53rd-minute Jack Crowley penalty, but their defiant effort was damaged by the missed Shane Daly tackle 13 minutes later on Jordan Larmour, the converted try pushing Leinster 21-13 clear.

They commendably still stuck at it, a Crowley penalty the precursor to a period of pressure ignited by sub Conor Murray that threatened a dramatic score-levelling try. There was no spectacular end product, however.

The narrow loss will sting the champions but there were still numerous positives for boss Graham Rowntree to take with him down the M7 as the manner of his team’s overall performance highlighted the genuine progress they have taken this year and how this rivalry is most definitely the real thing after some years in the doldrums. Here are the Munster player ratings:

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15. Simon Zebo – 6.5
What a reintroduction on his first start of the season and first Munster appearance with the No15 on his back since 2018, skittling the Leinster defence with his sixth-minute try-creating break. Penalised, though, for the breakdown for the penalty that Leinster kicked to touch and took a 35th-minute lead from.

14. Calvin Nash – 6.5
Lovely wheels when supporting the early Zebo break. Came back from a first-half HIA and his carry got his team 52nd-minute penalty points to close the gap to a point.

13. Antoine Frisch – 7.5
Swanky offload after joining the Zebo break for the Munster breakthrough. He had a meaty presence throughout, looking like the type of midfielder his team have been craving for years for.

12. Rory Scannell – 6.5
Linked play brilliantly in the staccato Munster start only to be yellow carded on 22 minutes with the then scoreless Leinster upping the ante near the try line.

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11. Shane Daly – 6
It was his slick catch of Gibson-Park’s box kick that secured possession for the opening try and he also put in a huge tackle to put an end to Leinster’s first visit to the 22. His evening ended on the bum note, though, of letting Jordan Larmour slip from the grasp for the result-deciding try.

10. Jack Crowley – 8
Having celebrated last May’s winning score with a reprise of the iconic Ronan O’Gara celebration, he returned to the scene of that career-awakening performance to play with an illuminating swagger. His head-to-head with Ross Byrne didn’t materialise as the Leinster out-half was immediately injured but he was inventive in attack and brave in defence where a breakdown penalty turnover on 49 minutes on his 22-metre line was ace.

9. Craig Casey – 7.5
Excellent finish for the try that gave Munster their fast start, his energy and quality of pass were so important to Munster. We also liked how he gave Gibson-Park an off-the-ball shove shortly before he exited to accommodate Conor Murray.

1. Jeremy Loughman – 6.5
Played 53 minutes and did well in getting his team in the contest at set-piece and breakdown.

2. Diarmuid Barron – 7.5
The skipper commendably played the full 80 with great grit and heart but he will he annoyed that it was his unprotected ball presentation on the floor that invited Caelan Doris to grab a pivotal steal with Munster threatening in the Leinster 22 late on.

3. Stephen Archer – 7
Munster’s most-capped player of all-time with this being his 269th appearance, he credibly lasted 58 minutes with perhaps his only regret being the concession of the scrum penalty that gave Leinster a much-needed in when they trailed 0-10.

4. Jean Kleyn – 7.5
Making his first club appearance since pocketing his Rugby World Cup medal, he was crucial to the Munster effort which put plenty of shackles on the speed of the Leinster background.

5. Tadhg Beirne – 6.5
Agonisingly short when Munster surged for a second try on 11 minutes, a frustration shared by Loughman on the recycle. He soon smacked Robbie Henshaw in the tackle but his display was ultimately marked down by the unnecessary offload he threw loose on halfway for the Gibson-Park try.

6. Tom Ahern – 7
A first start for the lock in the back row, he didn’t look out of place in going the distance.

7. John Hodnett – 7.5
Finished his team’s top tackler despite playing just 62 minutes. His best moment was a penalty-winning turnover a few minutes earlier on his team’s 22.

8. Gavin Coombes – 6.5
This was a big post-World Cup evening for him in front of Ireland boss Andy Farrell and he can’t be fully pleased with what he achieved. Frustrating moments included being on his knees to early when tackling the scoring, and the loss of ball in contact just minutes into the second half.

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Replacements:
16. Scott Buckley – No rating
Unused sub.

17. Dave Kilcoyne – 6.5
First appearance since the World Cup, he helped Munster stay in the fight until the end during his 27 minutes.

18. John Ryan – 6.5
Was in New Zealand with the Chiefs when these teams last played. Horsed into it during his 22-minute involvement.

19. Brian Gleeson – No rating
Only played the closing 11 minutes for Kleyn.

20. Alex Kendellen – 6
Given the closing 18 minutes for the all-action Hodnett.

21. Conor Murray – 7.5
Sent on with 29 minutes remaining, he immediately showed his nous with the reverse pass to Nash in the lead-up to penalty points. Has the stadium in raptures with that brilliant blindside bread that gave Munster a late sniff of glory.

22. Tony Butler – No rating
Thown on for Scannell with seven minutes left.

23. Shay McCarthy – 6
Had 20 minutes in total in his two cameos, initially as the HIA sub for Nash where he would have got a buzz with Leinster knocking on as he chased his first Casey box kick. Returned on 68 minutes for Zebo.

  • Click here for all the RugbyPass stats from the Leinster vs Munster match
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