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Rabo Direct Pro 12: Munster And Leinster Emerge Victorious

rugby

This post Christmas instalment of the RABO saw some great encounters as Ireland’s four provinces battled to earn the bragging rights heading into the new year, with Munster and Leinster occupying first and second place in the table.

Munster 22 – 16 Connacht

Munster started this game exceptionally well when JJ Hanrahan gave them the opening score to establish an early lead, but Connacht’s ball retention was impressive and they were rewarded when Dan Parks converted two penalties to swing things in Connacht’s favour. Connacht were unlucky at times as they put immense pressure on Munster’s defence. A poor defensive error by Parks failed to relieve pressure on the Connacht defence as JJ Hanrahan ran in to score the opening try. Munster led approaching half time when Hanrahan added a conversion and penalty before the end of the half. The rivalry between both sides was evident when scuffles broke out between the teams before the half time whistle.

Connacht’s discipline began to deteriorate as they were reduced to 14 men when Frank Murphy was sin-binned in the opening part of the second half. Munster seized control of the game as Connacht began to make handling errors in their own half as Munster extended their lead to 19 points to 9. Both sides lost players to the bin when James Cronin (Munster) was binned for provoking a reaction from Nathan White (Connacht) who punched Cronin. Despite Munster’s pressure on their opponents, Connacht still kept probing and worked the ball all the way down the field from their own half to finish with a great try by Dave Heffernan which made the final score more respectable. Munster maintain top spot with this 22-16 victory.

Leinster 19 – 6 Ulster

This game started at a frantic pace with Paddy Jackson putting the visitors in front straight away. Leinster responded when Jimmy Gopperth levelled matters soon after. Leinster seemed in control and time and time again they pounded Ulster’s defence with little to show for their efforts. Ulster took an unlikely lead when Jackson restored their three point advantage against the run of play, snatching a hard earned lead. It was only going to be a matter of time before Leinster breached the Ulster defence and they did so when Luke Fitzgerald spotted space down the left wing to set up Jordi Murphy for the crucial score that Leinster were desperately looking for. Ulster’s defence was ferocious as both sides were very aggressive at the break down. Leinster led by 10 points to 6 at the break.

Leinster pulled away in the second half when they punished Ulster’s mistakes and opened up a 13 point lead courtesy of three Gopperth penalties in the second half. Ulster’s performance improved in the second half as they seemed to control the game in the last few minutes but failed to get a losing bonus point for all their efforts. Leinster now move up to second in the table heading into 2014.

Image courtesy of RTE

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