Category: Archive

O’Driscoll reigns supreme as Leinster see off Munster

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

O’Driscoll, playing in his first match of the season, killed the game off with a truly stunning try just after the break, and then the usually disciplined Hayes lost his cool and stamped on Cian Healy after the young prop tried to pull down a maul.
With Healy bloodied from a cut to his face, a red card was referee Simon McDowell’s only option after consultation with one of his assistants, and Hayes could be facing a ban which would rule him out of Munster’s first two European Cup games and possibly all of Ireland’s autumn tests against Australia, Fiji and South Africa next month.
It was the first time Ireland’s most capped player had ever been sent off, but in truth, even if Munster had a full complement, it would still have been Leinster’s night. From one to 15, they were magnificent, and their ruthless second-half performance was reminiscent of last season’s demolition of their great rivals at Croke Park.
“We have our own views and John’s views on the situation, and there was certainly no intent there whatsoever,” said Munster coach, Tony McGahan who accepted that his team had been badly exposed. “In every facet we were second best.”
And that’s probably an understatement. Backed by a stiff breeze, Leinster led 13-0 at the interval which certainly wasn’t a comfortable advantage, but they then proceeded to blow Munster away in the second half with O’Driscoll and Shane Horgan scoring tries to add to Gordon D’Arcy’s first-half effort, while Jonny Sexton, who won his individual battle with Ronan O’Gara, kicked 15 points in a faultless display.
Much has rightly been made over the past few seasons of the extraordinary growth of this fixture from a low-key contest for alickadoos into one of the rugby world’s seminal rivalries.
If the two momentous European Cup semi-finals in 2006 and last May have predictably caught the imagination to a greater degree than the home-and-away format of the Celtic League, this latest chapter would comfortably have filled the 50,000 seats of the new Lansdowne Road had the stadium been open for business.
No one expected that the contest wouldn’t be a tight affair, but with the exception of one short period coming up to half time, it was all Leinster. “It’s hugely disappointing. To lose a derby game is disappointing but it was the manner we lost it,” said Donncha O’Callaghan. “Totally dominated really. We came out second best in every area. We were blown off the pitch. Their hunger was greater than ours, that’s why it’s embarrassing.”
Leinster’s dominance was eventually reflected by the first try of the game courtesy of D’Arcy. Once more the forwards created the platform in midfield, but in the end, the score could be put down to yet another example of O’Driscoll’s class. Spotting a mis-match, he stood up both Denis Leamy and Marcus Horan to put Horgan, who had come in from the right, into space the wing calmly delivered the killer pass to D’Arcy. Sexton added the extras to make it 13-0 on 27 minutes.
While not exerting a Rocky Elsom-like influence on the proceedings – then, who could? – Kevin McLaughlin impressed on his debut in the big time, and with the home side flying into the tackles, there didn’t appear to be any reason why they wouldn’t hold out.
No reason, in fact, as Leinster made a blistering start to the second half. If O’Dricoll’s brilliance in the conception of D’Arcy’s try mightn’t have been clear to all and sundry, he then produced a moment of sheer genius to put the game out of sight.
In fairness, the excellent Eoin Reddan’s role in the try shouldn’t go unmentioned, but this try was all about O’Driscoll. Accelerating in trademark style onto a pass just outside the Munster 22, he left both Jean de Villiers and Keith Earls for dead with a searing burst. You just had to wonder what Ireland’s captain might be capable of when he’s match fit.
Sexton’s conversion prompted a quick response from the Munster management as both Paul O’Connell and David Wallace were pitched into the fray off the bench, and that also seemed to provoke the outbreak of hostilities that left Healy with blood pouring down his face.
Hayes got his marching orders, and Sexton landed the penalty to widen the gap even further to 23-0. There were still 25 minutes to go, but Leinster had won the first battle of the season by a mile, and then Horgan rubbed salt in the wounds with an intercept try five minutes from the end.
European campaign at home against London Irish on Friday, while Munster travel to England to take on Northampton on Saturday.
Ulster’s European Cup prospects mightn’t look the best, but they certainly put themselves in a positive frame of mind following last week’s emphatic 45-24 bonus-point destruction of the Scarlets in Celtic League at Ravenhill.
Presumably, English Premiership club Bath, will be an altogether tougher proposition when they open their European campaign in Belfast on Friday, however, this latest victory which included tries by Andrew Trimble (2), Willie Faloon, Timoci Nagusa and Ian Whitten, has certainly raised Ulster spirits.
Connacht meanwhile remained rooted to the bottom of the table after they lost 23-10 to the Dragons in Wales.

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