Pro12: Munster 29-17 Leinster
|Munster (14) 29|
|Tries: Zebo, O'Mahony, O'Donnell, Stander Cons: Bleyendaal 3 Pen: Bleyendaal|
|Leinster (10) 17|
|Tries: Kirchner, Strauss Cons: Nacewa, Nacewa Pen: Nacewa|
Munster proved too strong for an under-strength Leinster in the top-of-the-table Pro12 derby at Thomond Park.
Zane Kirchner's try put Leinster ahead before Simon Zebo's well-taken score and a Ronan O'Mahony effort just before the break helped Munster move 14-10 up.
Helped by a greater complement of Ireland players, Munster dominated after half-time as Tommy O'Donnell and CJ Stander added further tries.
Richardt Strauss replied with a late try but it was Munster's evening.
Munster's bonus-point win, in front of a record Thomond Park Pro12 attendance of 26,200, moves them five points clear of Leinster, who remain second in the table.
The home side looked to have the stronger hand heading into the Boxing Day derby as they included front-line Ireland stars Conor Murray, Zebo, Stander, Donnacha Ryan and Peter O'Mahony.
In contrast, Leinster were without Jamie Heaslip, Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, Sean O'Brien, Josh van der Flier and Garry Ringrose although Robbie Henshaw and Tadhg Furlong did start for Leo Cullen's side.
Munster take control after early Leinster score
After a scrappy opening in Limerick, full-back Kirchner ran a superb line to score on 18 minutes following fast hands from half-backs Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne after Jack Conan had peeled off a scrum on the edge of Munster's 22.
But Munster were on terms within five minutes as Zebo contorted himself to dive over at the corner flag following a series of drives, with Tyler Bleyendaal's superb conversion matching Nacewa's earlier extras at the other end.
After a Nacewa penalty restored Leinster's lead, the visitors looked to have crucially repelled Munster pressure late in the first half only for O'Mahony to score in the corner after a superb Bleyendaal pass took out final defender Kirchner.
With the impressive fly-half adding the extras, Munster went in 14-10 ahead much to the delight of the vocal home crowd.
As Munster dominated possession in the third quarter, Murray exploited a penalty advantage to hoist a crosskick which O'Donnell fielded to score on 52 minutes and the bonus point was bagged four minutes later as man of the match Stander finished off a line-out maul.
With Munster's job done, Leinster's replacement hooker Strauss ran in a late try but it had no material effect on the game as the visitors headed back to Dublin empty-handed.
What they said
Leinster coach Leo Cullen: "A key moment was just before half-time after we had been defending so, so well, when they got in for the injury-time try. That was disappointing because it knocked the stuffing out of us.
"We then coughed up possession quite cheaply at the start of the second half and Munster got their driving game going and were clinical."
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus: "They were missing some of their international players but it was still one of the toughest physically intense games that we've played, so to come away with a win is very satisfying.
"It wasn't a perfect performance but the intensity was almost like a test match."
Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, D Ryan; P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: R Marshall for N Scannell 63 mins, B Holland for Kleyn 70, J O'Donoghue for P O'Mahony 67, D Williams for Murray 70, F Saili for Taute 64, A Conway for Sweetnam 41.
Not used: D Kilcoyne, S Archer
Leinster: Z Kirchner; I Nacewa, R O'Loughlin, R Henshaw, B Daly; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, J Tracy, T Furlong; R Molony, M McCarthy; R Ruddock, D Leavy, J Conan.
Replacements: R Strauss for Healy 63, P Dooley for Tracy 63, M Bent for Furlong 63, I Nagle for McCarthy 56, D Ryan for Ruddock 67, N Reid for B Daly 56, T Daly for Byrne 70.
Not used: C Rock
Referee: N Owens (Wales)