Munster ended 2022 with a one-point defeat to Leinster at Thomond Park in front of a fantastic sold-out crowd of 25,600.
It was a tough defeat to take as Munster had led 14-6 at the start of the second half thanks to a Gavin Coombes converted try and a penalty try but two quick-fire tries from Leinster between minutes 49 to 53 was enough to see them over the line.
Graham Rowntree’s men responded with a third try from Academy full-back Patrick Campbell but Leinster played the majority of the last 16 minutes in Munster territory to see out the victory.
Ross Byrne kicked Leinster into a 3-0 lead after three minutes when Munster were pinged for not rolling away.
Munster were then penalised in the scrum and Leinster went to the corner with Jack Crowley getting in over the ball to win a penalty after the ball was moved infield.
Jack O’Donoghue was the next man to win a penalty at the breakdown for Munster with Joey Carbery kicking to the corner but the ball went forward in the maul.
Byrne kicked Leinster’s second penalty on 20 minutes when Munster were penalised for not rolling away to make it 6-0.
Munster won a scrum penalty three minutes later and Carbery’s penalty from a tricky angle went just left and wide.
Munster were keeping the ball in hand as much as possible with turnovers from Leinster front row duo Andrew Porter and Dan Sheehan preventing the hosts from getting any points on the board.
Peter O’Mahony and Jean Kleyn did superbly to halt a Leinster maul before Antoine Frisch made a half-break. Niall Scannell picked a great line to gallop clear and the hooker showed his pace to get into the Leinster 22.
Good composure from the pack saw them finish off the opportunity as Coombes scored from close-range with Carbery converting to make it 7-6 to Munster after 31 minutes.
Excellent defence from Carbery saved Munster after a good backline move got the ball to Keith Earls on the wing but his chip ahead was blocked by Hugo Keenan who looked to pounce on the loose ball but Carbery got back to prevent a first Leinster try.
O’Mahony came up with a big moment before half-time to win back possession from Nick McCarthy but the half ended with Byrne lining up a shot at goal that thankfully dropped just wide.
Munster started the second half on the front foot with Leinster penalised at the breakdown and in the lineout. Carbery kicked to the left corner and Munster worked the maul superbly to win the penalty try and move 14-6 ahead after 43 minutes.
Max Deegan was sin-binned for dragging the maul down a yard from the line and the game restarted with Leinster down to 14.
Despite the disadvantage, Leinster hit back on 49 minutes with their first try as Scott Penny scored off a well-worked decoy play off a five-metre tap and go.
Leinster had the upper hand and were back in front on 53 minutes as Sheehan powered over from another five-metre tap and go. Byrne converted to make it 20-14 to Leinster.
Munster almost struck back immediately through Coombes but he was stopped inches short of the line with Leinster forcing a knock-on after a sustained period of Munster pressure.
Diarmuid Barron ripped possession off Max Deegan and Craig Casey kicked a brilliant 50-22 to give Munster the lineout inside the Leinster 22.
Roman Salanoa and Coombes made big carries with Casey zipping out the passes to keep the attack moving before whipping a pass for Academy full-back Patrick Campbell to score in the right corner.
Carbery’s touchline conversion was off target as Leinster led 20-19 with 15 minutes to go.
Jamie Osborne offloaded for Luke McGrath to nearly score under the posts with Calvin Nash racing back to make a try-saving tackle. Campbell and Barron got in over the ball to win the turnover with Barron going for a HIA afterwards.
Huge maul defence from Munster stopped Leinster twice in the final 10 minutes but the visitors saw out the remainder and claimed the victory.
URC Round 10 Round-Up
Replacement lock Kiran McDonald made his BKT URC debut for Munster.
Replacement hooker Diarmuid Barron was removed for a HIA.
This was Munster’s first Thomond Park sell-out since December 2019.
Gavin Coombes scored his 6th try of the season.
Munster: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Jack Crowley, Keith Earls (Patrick Campbell, 59); Joey Carbery (Rory Scannell, 64), Conor Murray (Craig Casey, 50); Dave Kilcoyne (Josh Wycherley, 61), Niall Scannell (Diarmuid Barron, 59) (HIA, Niall Scannell, 67), John Ryan (Roman Salanoa, 61); Jean Kleyn (Kiran McDonald, 71), Tadhg Beirne; Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony (C) (Alex Kendellen, 66), Gavin Coombes.