Leinster,thanks to the boot of Jonny Sexton, beat their arch rivals Munster 24-19 at a chilly Aviva Stadium this evening.
Sexton got 21 of his sides points in an outstanding performance as Leinster got a measure of revenge for their defeat in the Rabo Pro 12 grand final last season.
In a tense and close first thirty minutes it was the respective boots of Ronan O’Gara and Jonny Sexton which kept the scoreboard ticking over as both sides felt each other out.
Both Irish fly half’s ruthlessly punished any chance they got and were excellent with both their place kicking
Leinster shaded the game in terms of ball in open play in the first 40. Jamie Heaslip was at his dynamic best as he went probing for the ball at every breakdown. Heaslip, along with Sean O’Brien and Shane Jennings helped Leinster get on the front foot in front of their home fans.
What killed Leinster in the first half was a combination of aggressive tackling from Munster and a poor final delivery when the right pass would have put Leinster over.
The first try of the game should have came on the 26 min mark. After some good play from the Leinster’ forwards, Mike Ross was put in the clear and looked set to score when Lifeimi Mafi came from the clouds with a last ditch tackle to stop the prop from scoring.
Munster, to their credit, took what Leinster threw at them and gave it back. The halfback pairing of Connor Murray and Ronan O’Gara led the way and tried to force a gap, however each time they were met with a blue wall of resistance.
Having gone in 15-9 up at half time Leinster Munster came out of the blocks in the second half and O’Gara reduced the deficit to 3 with a penalty three minutes after the restart. They were undone however as they continued to give silly penalties, particularly at the breakdown.
Leinster continued to come at Munster and only some last ditch defending prevented Isa Nacewa from getting the first try of the night. Sexton continued to knock over the penalties, while Rob Kearney chipped further away at Munster with a beautifully taken drop goal on 55 minutes.
Munster’s fight back was dealt a huge blow on the hour mark when Denis Leamy became the victim of his sides persistent infringements when he was sent to the bin for deliberating holding up the ball.
The penalties continued to go Leinster’s way. O’Gara missed the chance to narrow the gap on 62 min’s. They were given a ray of hope when Jamie Heaslip followed Leamy to the bin for holding on at the ruck.
Perhaps the pivotal moment of the game came on the 70th minute mark. After dominating Leinster in the line out, Munster mauled their way to the edge of Leinster’s line. It seemed only a matter of time before they would score, however some great tackling from Jonny Sexton held Munster up and that seemed to take the steam out of Munster.
Munster did get a late penalty try which narrowed the gap, Leinster however closed out the game to seal the win and set themselves up for their defence of the Heineken Cup next weekend.