Leinster snatched victory from their arch-rivals in Limerick on Saturday night as a late Jordan Larmour try made Muster count the cost of two missed penalties from JJ Hanrahan.
The only downside after an absorbing interprovincial Guinness PRO14 derby was an apparent hamstring injury for Leinster and national captain Johnny Sexton, who left the field in front of watching Ireland boss Andy Farrell midway through the second half.
The win moves PRO14 champions Leinster a point behind Conference A leaders Ulster with a game in hand over their northern neighbours while Munster missed the chance to pull further clear of Connacht at the top of Conference B.
It was a game Johann van Graan’s side should have won on home soil having taken a 10-0 lead inside the first quarter on a chilly night at Thomond Park, Hanrahan nailing his first attempt at goal, also just inside the Leinster half, on five minutes before man of the match Tadhg Beirne drove over on 11 minutes, his try converted by the fly-half.
Sexton got his team up and running with a penalty on 25 minutes and closed the gap further on the stroke of half-time before Hanrahan’s costly miss just after the break gave Leinster the smell of Munster blood.
The killer blow came 10 minutes before full-time as Munster narrowed in defence, Sexton’s replacement Ross Byrne sent a clever kick into the right-hand corner, collected by full-back Hugo Keenan, whose offload fed Larmour for the go-ahead try at 10-11.
Byrne sent over the touchline conversion and Leinster saw out the remaining minutes with similar ease to seal a fifth consecutive victory over their great rivals.
This one will hurt Munster just as much as the others.
Jordan Larmour’s 70th-minute try may have edged Leinster in front at a pivotal point in this contest but JJ Hanrahan’s two penalty misses either side of half-time were the moments that swung this game.
The Munster fly-half had been unlucky to strike his 40th-minute long-distance penalty against an upright but the miss was compounded by a Johnny Sexton penalty before the break, turning this game from a potential 13-3 lead into a 10-6 game.
Then Hanrahan missed again, this time a more straightforward effort from close in on 46 minutes as Leinster were let off the hook once again.
Munster came into this game in form and with their best chance yet of finally turning the tables on their nemesis but yet again it was a good performance let down by crucial mistakes, not least from the kicking tee and though these two sides are likely to meet again in the PRO14 final, you get the sense there is a lot more left in Leinster’s locker.
Tadhg Beirne put in a monumental shift in the Munster second row, scoring a first-quarter try and causing the Leinster breakdown all sorts of trouble with his poaching prowess. He was a worthy man of the match and staked his claim to a starting spot alongside James Ryan in the Ireland second row.
Andrew Brace kept a firm grip on this derby which was not quite as feisty as previous encounters, though he needed a strong word with Scott Fardy and CJ Stander for a coming together after a touchline ruck.
Munster 9 Leinster 8.
There will be concern for the watching Ireland head coach Andy Farrell who saw captain Johnny Sexton withdrawn in the second half following a conversation with the Leinster physios as he felt his left hamstring. So too the exit of Peter O’Mahony following a series of running repairs in his 67 minutes on the field.
There’s little confirmed by the PRO14 save for rescheduled matches and Munster have one of those in Treviso, Italy, next Saturday at 5pm (Irish time) when they meet Benetton at Stadio Monigo in a game originally set for November that fell foul of Covid outbreak in the Italian club’s camp. Leinster are in action later that day at 7:35pm when they travel to West Wales for a clash with Scarlets.
M Haley; K Earls, C Farrell, D de Allende, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan (B Healy, 53), C Murray (C Casey, 74); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne, 53), R Marshall (N Scannell, 53), John Ryan (S Archer, 53); J Kleyn, T Beirne; G Coombes (J O’Donoghue, 64), P O’Mahony - captain (F Wycherley, 67), CJ Stander.
H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J O’Brien (J Gibson-Park, 58); J Sexton - captain (R Byrne, 53), L McGrath; C Healy (E Byrne, 51), S Cronin (R Kelleher, 51), A Porter; S Fardy (R Molony, 12-25 & 64), James Ryan; R Ruddock (J Conan, 68), W Connors (J van der Flier, 59), C Doris.
Andrew Brace (IRFU).