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Leinster return to top after attritional victory over Munster

Limerick , Ireland - 26 December 2023; Rónan Kelleher of Leinster celebrates his side winning a penalty during the United Rugby Championship match between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park in Limerick. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Harry Byrne kicked Leinster to a 9-3 festive derby win over Munster at a wet and windy Thomond Park as they returned to the top of the BKT United Rugby Championship.


A scrappy first half ended 6-0 in Leinster’s favour with Byrne booting two penalties and Munster keeping their try-line intact despite Craig Casey’s sin-binning.

Jack Crowley halved the deficit, yet Byrne put two misses behind him to land a last-minute winner from close range, in front of a 25,600-strong capacity crowd.

The result saw Leo Cullen’s men move back above Glasgow Warriors at the summit, while it is Munster’s second defeat of the season to their arch rivals, coming on the back of a winless start to their Investec Champions Cup campaign.

Munster suffered a couple of early setbacks, losing captain Diarmuid Barron to injury after he had leaked the opening points to Byrne for sealing off.

Inexperienced hooker Eoghan Clarke, signed by Munster on a short-term deal, entered the fray before Byrne rewarded Andrew Porter’s breakdown work to make it 6-0 in the 15th minute.

Alex Nankivell’s impressive leg drive got Munster into scoring range, but Casey’s blindside break, midway through the first half, was foiled by a foot in touch.


Leinster pressed for the opening try off a quick counter attack, only for a bandaged-up Simon Zebo to thwart Luke McGrath’s attempted pass back inside.

It was tit-for-tat in the scrums, with Oli Jager, making his first Munster start, having a ding-dong battle with Ireland international Porter.

Leinster failed to profit from Casey’s yellow card – he took Jordan Larmour above the horizontal in a tackle – as Munster’s sharp maul defence dug them out of a hole.

Crowley, who briefly stepped in at scrum-half, missed an early second half penalty, and Munster’s cruel run of luck of injuries continued when Edwin Edogbo was forced off.


A long-range 51st-minute strike from Crowley lifted the hosts, who defended smartly near their own line before watching Byrne hit the post with a penalty into the swirling wind.

The Leinster fly-half pulled a second kick wide in the 63rd minute, but the visitors succeeded in disrupting Munster’s subsequent lineouts with replacement Ryan Baird a real nuisance.

Leinster’s six-two split on the bench was a factor late on as a couple of scrum penalties allowed them to grind out the result in testing conditions.

With Munster replacement Jeremy Loughman dispatched to the bin for a cynical offside, Byrne settled the issue from straight in front of the posts.



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