A LATE flash of genius from Leinster out-half Alex O’Driscoll lit up an attritional A Schools interprovincial encounter in Midleton yesterday.
With the sides amazingly still scoreless in injury time, O’Driscoll’s first-time, one-handed flick over his head finally created the space to grab the try they so keenly craved.
That flourish gave centre Fergus Halpin just enough time to send wing Alan Moran in the left corner, finally breaking a resolute Munster rearguard action.
Although O’Driscoll missed the touchline conversion, he confidently hammered over a 35-metre penalty with the last kick of the game to send Leinster into next week’s return clash at Donnybrook in confident mood.
It was no more than Leinster deserved, having always looked the more dangerous side but been let down by their handling and iffy decision-making with the boot.
Munster were tigerish in their tackling, particularly openside Sam Hunter and second-row PJ Hegarty, and got some change out of the visitors in the scrums. But Leinster’s superiority in the lineout – where Jasper Pickers, Mike Dunne and Rafe Garland ruled the skies – more often than not denied the hosts usable possession.
The ball which did some Munster’s way rarely strayed too far from midfield, while the boots of out-half Ned Hodson and full-back Ronan Hunt were useful territorial weapons.
However, it was Leinster who made all the running out wide, and they came closest to scoring in the first quarter, Andrew Douglas’ pass going behind Halpin when they looked set to execute a simple overlap.
Munster had chances to take the lead at the end of the half with two penalties but Hodson was unable to convert either opportunity, both difficult kicks from wide out.
Leinster number eight Shane Brennan was his side’s go-to man with some slashing breaks off the base of an often retreating scrum, but too often the support was slow in arriving.
The visitors’ full-back Sam Crowe was inches away from getting a scoring touch on a charged-down kick on 50 minutes, but that was as good as it got for either side, until O’Driscoll’s late salvo provided the catalyst to settle it in Leinster’s favour.
MUNSTER: R Hunt (Villiers); C Moloney (Bandon Grammar), Conor Haran (Waterpark College), A Walsh (Newtown), S Scallan (Newtown); N Hodson (Midleton College), A Atkinson (Villiers); N Willoughby (Bandon Grammar), B Cross (Newtown), P Marks (St Clements); PJ Hegarty (Bandon Grammar), E Fitzgerald (St Clements); W O’Morochoe (Newtown, capt), S Hunter (Bandon Grammar), P Deane (Bandon Grammar).
Replacements: P Ryan (Abbey) for Scallan (42-52, blood), S O’Sullivan (Midleton College) for Hegarty (51), J Robinson (Bandon Grammar) for Atkinson, D O’Donnell (Abbey) for Willoughby, E Bedford (Salesians Pallskenry) for Marks (all 55), R Meaney (Gaelcholaiste Luimnigh) for O’Morochoe (57), K Ryan (St Nessan’s Community College) for Cross (65), J Sweetnam (Midleton College) for Haran (70+4).
LEINSTER: S Crowe (Newpark Comprehensive); J Buckett (Mount Temple), F Halpin (Newpark Comprehensive), A Douglas (Wilson’s Hospital), A Moran (St Patrick’s Classical School); A O’Driscoll (St Finbarr’s, Sutton), A Gibbons (St Finbarr’s, Sutton); A Marshall (Newpark Comprehensive), J Byrne (Abbey CS, Wicklow), D Bawle (CBS Kilkenny); M Dunne (St Kieran’s, Kilkenny), R Garland (Newpark Comprehensive); J Pickers (St Columba’s), S Kealon (St Patrick’s Classical School), S Brennan (St Kieran’s, Kilkenny).
Replacements: S Byrne (St Paul’s, Raheny) for Dunne (33-38, blood) and for Kealon (50), K Adibole (Ard Scoil na Trinoide), for Bawle (h/t), M Higgins (Abbey CS, Wicklow) for Gibbons (45), F Howley (Newpark Comprehensive) for Douglas (50), J Gibbons (Mount Temple) for Byrne (55).
Referee: Dave O’Flynn (MAR)
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