Leinster see off lacklustre Munster
Easier than it looked for Leinster who should have scored more tries than they did, allowing an often limp Munster side to stay competitive until the end.
Both sides were chasing a bonus point in the final five minutes; arguably, neither deserved it but the brace of tries from Isa Nacewa in either half, added to by Jamison Gibson-Park late in the piece, reflected blue dominion.
Based on the quality of this evidence, both teams must improve to threaten the last eight in Europe; Munster will also sweat on a shoulder problem for Keith Earls.
Munster dominated early possession but kicked it away twice and from Leinster’s first visit to the opponents’ 22, they got a fifth minute lead through the boot of Jonathan Sexton.
Sexton made no mistake and five minutes later he doubled Leinster’s advantage although it could have been much more for the dominant home side as Nacewa missed a glorious chance to score.
Munster did impose some pressure around the 25th minute mark when they kicked to the corner for two successive lineout drives.
Despite the referee being in the completely wrong position to view the score, O’Mahony’s touchdown was confirmed by the TMO and, incredibly, Tyler Bleyendaal’s conversion gave his side the lead, 7-6, in the 27th minute.
Leinster should have responded a try almost immediately; Sexton’s grubber landed on a plate for Garry Ringrose but the midfield tyro, under little pressure and with the ball bouncing perfectly into his midriff, failed miserably in his attempt to land the five-pointer.
It was the nearest one gets to an open goal in rugby as 40,527 Aviva spectators gasped in dis-belief.
Leinster remained camped in this Havelock Square corner for the next ten minutes and they nearly did get the score their pressure seemed to deserve but the referee blocked Luke McGrath’s attempt to carry on the blindside of a scrum despite having a two-on-one outside him.
Astonishingly, Munster allowed their opponents to replicate the exact same move just seconds later; this time the referee couldn’t help the appallingly lax Reds’ defence and Nacewa was not to be denied.
Sexton missed the 35th minute conversion but the 11-7 scoreline now more accurately reflected the disparity between the sides as the half-time break loomed.
If they had taken all their chances, Leinster would have been out of sight.
Munster began the second-half as they began the first; attacking with the ball but without conviction or penetration.
They were held up short as they punched bigger and wider holes but Leinster’s blue wall held out, James Cronin penalised for a double movement as he flailed at the try-line from close range.
Leinster created little until Munster over-threw a lineout in 55th minute on their own 22; the home side pounced and, after initially being repelled, Rob Kearney flung a pass - well forward but missed by the officials - from right to left for Nacewa to claim his second try of the match.
Sexton’s conversion made it 18-7 with the hour mark approaching and, as Keith Earls departed clutching his shoulder, Munster looked like a beaten docket.
Sexton spurned a shot at goal on the hour as Leinster sensed a third try. They struggled to get it but the fact they didn’t need it spoke volumes about Munster’s own struggles.
A comedy of errors in the 68th minute allowed Leinster to score it. Ronan O’Mahony fumbled Robbie Henshaw’s grubber; Henshaw missed the touchdown, Bleyendaal failed to gather.
As all around him flailed, Jamison Gibson-Park mopped up the mess; Nacewa added extras for 25-7. Munster’s new signing Jaco Taute scored a consolation with six minutes left as his side belatedly found the exposed defence out wide.