Munster’s slim hopes of overhauling Leinster in this year’s Magners League disappeared at the RDS on Saturday where Leinster extended the gap at the top of the table with a 21-12 victory in front of a full house.
In the end it was a case of the outcome being decided by the order of the boot, six Felipe Contepomi penalties and a smartly taken Jonathan Sexton drop-goal giving Leinster their total while Ronan O’Gara and Paul Warwick scored a brace of penalties apiece.
Warwick came on at the start of the second half when O’Gara failed to return to the fray having injured a knee in injury time of the opening half and now Munster will have a fretful wait as the Corkman battles to be fit in time for the Heineken Cup semi-final against Saracens in less than two weeks time.
There will also be serious concern about Peter Stringer who was stretchered off in the 55th minute with a neck injury but the scrum-half was discharged from hospital later that evening and returned home the following day.
Munster played second fiddle to a fired-up Leinster from the kick off and soon found themselves points down, their indiscipline punished by three Contepomi penalties. Their try line was then saved by a marvellous Doug Howlett tackle on Rob Kearney after first Johnny Sexton and then Contepomi danced through the Munster defence.
In an ill tempered game, the penalties continued to flow and two one in favour of O’Gara from the placed ball left Munster trailing 12-6 at the break.
Warwick reduced the deficit to three points with his first successful kick and was on the mark again after Contepomi had struck one from distance and with Rua Tipoki in the bin for a high tackle Contepomi was on the mark again before Sexton’d drop-goal left Munster two scores adrift to seal the outcome and, most likely, the League title for Leinster.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett, L Mafi, R Tipoki, I Dowling; R O’Gara (P Warwick ht), P Stringer (T O’Leary 55 mins); T Buckley ( F Pucciariello 74 mins), J Flannery (F Sheahan 67 mins), J Hayes, D O’Callaghan (P O’Connell 55 mins), M O’Driscoll, A Quinlan, A Foley (N Ronan 72 mins), Leamy.
Leinster: Dempsey; Horgan, Fitzgerald, Contepomi, Kearney; Sexton, Whitaker; O le Roux, Jackman (Blaney 78), Wright, Cullen (capt), O’Kelly (Hogan 84), Jennings, Heaslip, Gleeson (Keogh 84).
Referee: C White (England)