Sexton steers Leinster home
Jonathan Sexton kicked seven penalties for Leinster as they beat Munster 24-19 in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Friday.
Last Updated: 04/11/11 10:22pm
Jonathan Sexton kicked seven penalties for Leinster as they beat defending champions Munster 24-19 in their RaboDirect PRO12 derby match on Friday.
A crowd of over 48,000 watched at the Aviva Stadium as Sexton earned himself a 100 per cent kicking record - something which proved crucial when Munster secured a late penalty try.
Ireland fly-halves Sexton and Ronan O'Gara exchanged a succession of penalties during a defence-dominated first half, with the former pushing Leinster into a 15-9 half-time lead.
And despite the best efforts of O'Gara and a durable Munster pack, Sexton and drop-goal scorer Rob Kearney kept Joe Schmidt's men ahead all the way to the final whistle.
Munster suffered an early setback when Keith Earls fielded Sexton's kick-off and injured his left leg as he set up a ruck near his 22.
Danny Barnes was brought off the bench in his place and the visitors soon took the lead, with O'Gara nailing a penalty after Donncha O'Callaghan poached a Leinster lineout.
Leinster were back level by the 10th minute, though, with their forwards gaining good ground before Sexton fired over the first of his 21 points.
Every mistake was punished in a typically frenetic opening, with Sexton moving Leinster 6-3 ahead after Donnacha Ryan infringed at a midfield ruck.
Sean O'Brien and Conor Murray clashed off the ball before O'Gara and Sexton exchanged penalties once again, with neither attack able to prise open a gap.
The first break eventually came when Cian Healy broke through a couple of tackles and brought play up close to the Munster tryline.
However, Leinster botched an overlap on the left and had to settle for another Sexton penalty.
Five minutes later, Munster earned themselves a penalty from a well-orchestrated maul and O'Gara had little difficulty in splitting the posts from the left.
But when BJ Botha infringed at a scrum just inside the visitors' 22, Sexton restored Leinster's six-point advantage at the interval.
The nip-and-tuck pattern continued into the second half, with O'Gara and Sexton still swapping penalties, although an injection of pace from Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden gave Leinster more forward momentum.
Isa Nacewa was crowded out in the right corner but space was beginning to open up as evidenced by midfield bursts from Barnes and Gordon D'Arcy.
Leinster moved nine points in front when, with a penalty advantage, Kearney was set up for a sweetly-struck drop goal from 35 metres out.
The home side were beginning to find holes and when Denis Leamy received a yellow card for killing quick ruck ball, Sexton made it 24-12.
O'Gara suffered his first miss two minutes later, yet the 14 men of Munster soon had the European champions under huge pressure.
Paul O'Connell was central to a series of lineout mauls which could and perhaps should have led to the game's first try. Leinster leaked penalties and had Jamie Heaslip sin-binned as he infringed when trying to halt the Munster drive.
Leinster managed to keep their rivals out until three minutes from the end when the visitors' scrum found the strength to shunt them back towards their line.
On the second such occasion, after James Coughlan almost got over, referee Pascal Gauzere awarded a penalty try.
O'Gara quickly converted but a losing bonus point was Munster's only reward after a bruising contest.