Leinster prevailed 16-13 winners over rivals Munster in a tightly contested game at the Aviva Stadium that seen Ireland outhalf Johnny Sexton have his best game in blue in sometime.
On a wet, and greasy day in Dublin here’s how both sets of players fared in a game that went right down to the wire.
15 Zane Kirchner – 7 – Turned the ball over in the tackle and had a rather poor first-half before exploding into life in the second. Had a couple of half breaks and passed the ball at the right moments.
14 Isa Nacewa – 7 -Great tackle in the opening few minutes that led to a Leinster turnover. Looked lively when he got the ball on the wing but still lacks the speed and acceleration to really pull away from defenders when given space.
13 Garry Ringrose – 7- Was very quiet up until he won his side a much needed penalty just metres out from his own try line. Powerful in the counter-ruck and is becoming increasingly more comfortable in his role at outside centre. Grew more into the game as the second-half unfolded. Quiet, yet encouraging performance.
12 Ben Te’o – 7- Predictably, carried well and sucked in the Munster defence with ball in hand, but never seriously caused Munster any real problems outside of attracting the attention of a few defenders. Came up with a huge tackle on Mike Sherry that forced a knock on and won Leinster the game.
11 Dave Kearney – 5 – Gave away a Leinster penalty and turned the ball over in the first two minutes and had a very quiet game. Seen very little of the ball before being replaced by Fergus McFadden with 15 minutes to go.
10 Johnny Sexton – 9 – Man of the Match and deservedly so. Scored every single one of Leinster’s points and was very good with ball in hand. Guided his team around the park but never really opened up the defence. Exploited a Francis Saili misread before showing great acceleration to round the former All Black and score Leinster’s only try of the game.
9 Eoin Reddan – 7 – Showed the experience and temperament of a veteran, while helping to control the pace and tempo of Leinster’s attack. His box kicks were timely and his execution was more or less where it needed to be.
8 Jamie Heaslip – 7 – Was outshone by the brilliant CJ Stander and although he never really put a foot wrong, he failed to replicate the same dynamism we’ve seen him show in the Six Nations. Was accounted for when he needed to be and improved when it mattered most.
7 Jordi Murphy – 6 -Worked hard, got involved as much as he could but never really had one stand out moment. Did his job well and was part of a cohesive, high performing Leinster maul.
6 Rhys Ruddock – 8 – Played exceptionally well throughout and was very strong in the carry, as well as efficient in defence. Also provided a great third line-out option for Leinster’s back pod and hauled in a magnificent take that would eventually lead to a Johnny Sexton try.
5 Hayden Triggs – 5 – Average game. A couple of carries, a couple of tackles, a couple of line-out grabs. Nothing out of the ordinary.
4 Devin Toner – 8 – Great work in the clean out and predictably dominant in the air. Great on his own line-out ball and even managed to steal a couple of Munster’s errant throws. Outstanding motor and was consistently good over the course of the game.
3 Tadhg Furlong – 8 – Very solid scrum and continually got the better of James Cronin throughout the contest. Is improving with every game and put in another good performance here this afternoon.
2 Sean Cronin – 6 -First line-out missed its target, second one missed, third was a miscommunication and the trend continued. Was good in open play as per usual but will be disappointed with his performance at the line-out.
1 Jack McGrath – 8 – Very solid scrum that provided a great platform for Leinster throughout the game. Got through a mountain of work and was the best prop on the park.
16 Richardt Strauss – 7 – Provided more stability than Cronin did and was predictably solid.
17 Cian Healy – 4 – Could never really get into the game and had a very cheap knock on inside the Munster half with only five minutes remaining. Was sin binned for a stupid challenge on Dave Kilcoyne in which he made no attempt to use his arms. The gap between Healy and McGrath continues to widen.
19 Ross Molony – 7- Was an improvement on Triggs and got through plenty of work in his limited time on the field. Performed very admirably in defence during Leinster’s grandstand finish.
20 Josh van Der Flier – 7 – Worked hard as per usual but couldn’t generate any turnovers despite numerous attempts. Was also a solid line-out option when called upon.
21 Luke McGrath – 7 – Won a crucial turnover with less than ten minutes to go with Munster starting to press. Leinster didn’t have a whole lot of ball during his time on the field but when they did, McGrath looked to speed up the play like a good replacement scrum-half should do.
22 Ian Madigan – 5 – Was on the field but played no part in the game.
23 Fergus McFadden – 5 – Rarely seen the ball but made a couple of tackles.
15 Simon Zebo –6 – Was good as a first receiver but dropped a number of balls that could have led to Munster scores, most notably a hole that opened up for him with the try line begging early in the first-half. Was rather unsafe under the high ball and while he improved as the game went on, he never really had a great grasp as it was a rather uncharacteristically error prone performance.
14 Andrew Conway – 5- Big miscommunication with Zebo that made a Luke Mcgrath box kick look a lot better than it should have. Never got enough ball to really make a big impact on the game.
13 Francis Saili – 6 -Ran the ball well, tackled well but was hopelessly caught out on Johnny Sexton’s try with a bad defensive read. Continues to run sideways a lot and missed a couple of opportunities to provide key passes, instead preferring to keep the ball and take the contact.
12 Rory Scannell – 7 – Great run through the heart of the Leinster defence that eventually led to Munster’s second score of the game. Looked to run to space and managed to get a couple of offloads off as he helped straighten the Munster attack.
11 Keith Earls – 6 -Saw very little ball and when he did it was usually contested in the air. Had one clean break in the second half but did not see the kind of space he would’ve liked.
10 Johnny Holland – 8 – Very positive in attack and was very unfortunate not to connect with a Simon Zebo offload that could have provided the opening score. Kicked at the right times, got his side out of trouble, and put Munster ahead after wriggling his way through the tackle of Cronin and Kirchner.
9 Conor Murray – 7 – Passes on point, very wide of the base of set-pieces and rucks and picked up the pace when he needed to. Had a number of box kicks that failed to hit their mark but did more good than bad.
8 CJ Stander – 9 – Worked tirelessly as usual and rarely ceased to get over the advantage line. Led from the front and was one of Munster’s best on the day.
7 Tommy O’Donnell – 8 – Stole a Leinster line-out right out from his own line and scavenged every single ruck he could get to. Carried well throughout the game and generally put in a very hard working, industrious shift.
6 Dave O’Callaghan – 6 – Was largely unnoticed given the amount of work his back-row partners got through but performed decently given the circumstances.
5 Billy Holland – 8 – Stole Leinster’s first line-out and was generally outstanding for Munster. Ran hard, tackled well and performed well in the line-out even snatching a couple of wayward Leinster throws.
4 Donncha Ryan – 6 – Provided very clean line-out ball but departed the game after 25 minutes through concussion.
3 Stephen Archer – 7 – Out scrummed at the start but improved as the game went on. Was physical in defence and willing in attack.
2 Niall Scannell – 6 – First lineout on target but gave away a penalty for not releasing the ball carrier. Straightened in the carry but never really put a huge dent in the Leinster defence.
1 James Cronin – 6 – Out scrummed but tackled and played well in open play. Had a tough day against Tadhg Furlong who continually got the better of him on his side of the scrum.
16 Mike Sherry – 7 – Connected with his lineouts and to provide good strong carries with serviceable defence.
17 – Dave Kilcoyne – 7 – Got involved as much as he could in open play and looked to plough forward with every opportunity.
19 Robin Copeland – 6 – Didn’t really make a huge impact when he came on and was sent to the bin on 35 minutes after a string of Leinster penalties. Had a better second-half but there were better forwards on the day.
20 Jack O’Donoghue – 6- Looked like he might have provided the spark that Munster needed but did not show the type of form that earned him an Ireland call up. Will be disappointed with his limited opportunities.
22 Ian Keatley – 6 -Brought increased energy on the field but missed a rather difficult penalty near the sideline that could’ve put Munster ahead with just over 20 minutes to go. Also knocked on an enterprising Rory Scannell offload that should’ve went to hand and was a downgrade on Holland.
23 Darren Sweetnam – 6 – Barely seen any ball so his impact was severely limited.
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