RaboDirect Pro12: Brian O'Driscoll's try gives Leinster away win against Munster
Last Updated: 13/04/13 9:19pm
The returning Brian O'Driscoll scored the match-winning try for Leinster in a bruising RaboDirect PRO12 battle with Munster.
O'Driscoll showed his trademark poacher's instinct from a close-in ruck in the 71st minute, nipping in by the posts after 27 phases of patient carrying and ruck control from the visitors.
Munster, six days after their Heineken Cup heroics against Harlequins, tired in the closing stages at Thomond Park and Leinster, driven on by man-of-the-match Isaac Boss, got the decisive score for a 22-16 success that keeps them on track for a home semi-final.
The interprovincial derby afforded watching Lions coaches Warren Gatland and Rob Howley the chance to gauge the form of captaincy contenders Paul O'Connell and O'Driscoll, the latter coming back from his three-week ban.
Ian Madigan's right boot was the main influence for Leinster in the first half, firing over four penalties for a 12-10 interval lead.
Joe Schmidt's men failed to take full advantage of a strong wind though, and two unconverted tries from Ian Keatley and Felix Jones in the opening period showed Munster's attacking capabilities.
Keatley kicked two penalties to Madigan's one as Munster edged ahead 16-15 at the start of the second half, but in an energy-sapping end game Leinster came out on top to complete a season's double over their arch rivals.
Leinster were backed by a brisk wind blowing downfield in the opening half, and were first to threaten the try-line.
Madigan used the wind to swing over a left-sided penalty in the sixth minute after Mike Ross gained the upper hand in the first scrum.
Referee Nigel Owens penalised David Kilcoyne at a second scrum, allowing Madigan to double Leinster's lead from long range.
The visitors' fly-half nailed a third attempt in the 20th minute - this time from inside the 10-metre line - but from the restart his opposite number Keatley broke the try deadlock.
Damien Varley snaffled a superb turnover after tackling Nacewa close to the Leinster line and the ball was swept to the left for Keatley to dive over in the corner.
The difficult conversion was missed but they scored a second try in the 27th minute when Keatley fired a pass out for onrushing full-back Jones to snipe over in the corner with Leinster claiming O'Driscoll had been obstructed by James Downey in the build-up.
Keatley's conversion attempt from wide out just missed and Leinster responded by reclaiming the lead when Madigan slotted over his fourth successful kick after Varley leaked a penalty for not rolling away.
Munster made early headway after the interval, their scrum winning a decision that led to Keatley's opening penalty of the night.
He added his second two minutes later, drilling over from distance to reward Tommy O'Donnell for good foraging at the breakdown.
Madigan cancelled that effort out to make it 16-15 with half-an-hour remaining, with the ruck area continuing to be fiercely competitive.
A series of lineout poaches kept O'Connell and company on the front foot, but they were unable to threaten the scoreboard in a stop-start third quarter.
Conditions worsened as the rain pelted down, making for a scrappy finish as Munster's supremely committed defence handling anything Leinster could throw at them.
That is until Boss sparked a stirring spell of carrying and rucking from the forwards with powerful replacement Jack McGrath making his mark.
O'Driscoll, having been stopped just moments earlier, seized his chance to go over inches from the right post despite the presence of Downey and BJ Botha.
The try was awarded, Madigan converted and Munster's late rally was foiled by two telling turnovers from Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip, who came to the fore when it mattered most for the visitors.
RaboDirect PRO12 2012/13 Round 19
Ulster will aim to finish at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table when they take on Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill.
Connacht say goodbye to their number seven Johnny O'Connor when they take on Glasgow at the Galway Sportsground.
Paul O'Donohoe's last-minute try salvaged a 23-23 draw for Connacht in Treviso.
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