The importance of being earnest
Leinster 24 – 19 Munster
It was a game of penalties, troche penalties which ultimately won the game for Leinster but the ones who really lost out were the spectators. The 48, view 365 fans manned the sidelines at the Aviva Stadium were doubtless expecting a derby match of high intensity, however what they were left with was a game that many will hope to forget.
Irish winger Keith Earls was injured in kick-off and Munster were forced to make an early substitution. Earls was expected to make a strong outing after a disappointing visit to New Zealand.
The first half was punctuated by kicking opportunities for both sides brought on by a series of penalties for simple misdemeanors: breaking the scrum binding; coming in from the side; and players off their feet in rucking situations. The crowd had little to cheer for with few plays resulting in anything more than a penalty conversion.
The second half saw much of the same. Neither team seemed to come into form in the second half, and while Leinster dominated the scoreboard, it was apparent to all that basic mistakes and a slow tempo had ruined the derby. The game drew to a close with a high score but a disappointing performance from both sides.
Both number 8s were sent off within nine minutes of each other and several other players were cautioned throughout the match. The referee, Pascal Gauzere, penalised every mistake at the breakdown and was a strong presence through the game. While it is important to punish errors, Gauzere was little short of pedantic. Many spectators agreed that the match was ruined by consistent penalties which could be put down to an over-anxious referee. There was little continuity, little flow and little magic on the field.
While there was strong support from the Leinster crowd; few Munster supporters travelled, or indeed, let their voices be heard over the cheers as out-half Jonathan Sexton scored an impressive 21 points from place kicking. The reaction of the crowd was lacklustre however for a match between two sides with such a brotherly rivalry.