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RaboDirect Pro12: Brian O'Driscoll's try gives Leinster away win against Munster
The returning Brian O'Driscoll scored the match-winning try for Leinster in a bruising RaboDirect PRO12 battle with Munster.
O'Driscoll showed his trademark poacher's instinct from a close-in ruck in the 71st minute, nipping in by the posts after 27 phases of patient carrying and ruck control from the visitors.
Munster, six days after their Heineken Cup heroics against Harlequins, tired in the closing stages at Thomond Park and Leinster, driven on by man-of-the-match Isaac Boss, got the decisive score for a 22-16 success that keeps them on track for a home semi-final.
The interprovincial derby afforded watching Lions coaches Warren Gatland and Rob Howley the chance to gauge the form of captaincy contenders Paul O'Connell and O'Driscoll, the latter coming back from his three-week ban.
Ian Madigan's right boot was the main influence for Leinster in the first half, firing over four penalties for a 12-10 interval lead.
Joe Schmidt's men failed to take full advantage of a strong wind though, and two unconverted tries from Ian Keatley and Felix Jones in the opening period showed Munster's attacking capabilities.
Keatley kicked two penalties to Madigan's one as Munster edged ahead 16-15 at the start of the second half, but in an energy-sapping end game Leinster came out on top to complete a season's double over their arch rivals.
Leinster were backed by a brisk wind blowing downfield in the opening half, and were first to threaten the try-line.
Madigan used the wind to swing over a left-sided penalty in the sixth minute after Mike Ross gained the upper hand in the first scrum.
Referee Nigel Owens penalised David Kilcoyne at a second scrum, allowing Madigan to double Leinster's lead from long range.
The visitors' fly-half nailed a third attempt in the 20th minute - this time from inside the 10-metre line - but from the restart his opposite number Keatley broke the try deadlock.
Damien Varley snaffled a superb turnover after tackling Nacewa close to the Leinster line and the ball was swept to the left for Keatley to dive over in the corner.
The difficult conversion was missed but they scored a second try in the 27th minute when Keatley fired a pass out for onrushing full-back Jones to snipe over in the corner with Leinster claiming O'Driscoll had been obstructed by James Downey in the build-up.
Keatley's conversion attempt from wide out just missed and Leinster responded by reclaiming the lead when Madigan slotted over his fourth successful kick after Varley leaked a penalty for not rolling away.
Munster made early headway after the interval, their scrum winning a decision that led to Keatley's opening penalty of the night.
He added his second two minutes later, drilling over from distance to reward Tommy O'Donnell for good foraging at the breakdown.
Madigan cancelled that effort out to make it 16-15 with half-an-hour remaining, with the ruck area continuing to be fiercely competitive.
A series of lineout poaches kept O'Connell and company on the front foot, but they were unable to threaten the scoreboard in a stop-start third quarter.
Conditions worsened as the rain pelted down, making for a scrappy finish as Munster's supremely committed defence handling anything Leinster could throw at them.
That is until Boss sparked a stirring spell of carrying and rucking from the forwards with powerful replacement Jack McGrath making his mark.
O'Driscoll, having been stopped just moments earlier, seized his chance to go over inches from the right post despite the presence of Downey and BJ Botha.
The try was awarded, Madigan converted and Munster's late rally was foiled by two telling turnovers from Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip, who came to the fore when it mattered most for the visitors.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 27th February|
|19:35||Ospreys vs Leinster|
|19:35||Ulster vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 28th February|
|19:15||Munster vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Sunday 1st March|
|12:45||Cardiff Blues vs Edinburgh|
|17:00||Zebre vs Dragons|
|17:15||Connacht vs Treviso|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:35||Cardiff Blues vs Connacht|
|19:35||Glasgow Warriors vs Zebre|
|Saturday 7th March|
|14:40||Ospreys vs Munster|
|17:15||Scarlets vs Leinster|
|18:00||Benetton Treviso vs Edinburgh|
|Sunday 8th March|
|16:00||Dragons vs Ulster|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:35||Leinster vs Glasgow|
|19:35||Ulster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 28th March|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Ospreys vs Zebre|
|14:40||Scarlets vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Munster vs Connacht|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Cardiff Blues|
|19:35||Benetton Treviso vs Ospreys|
|Saturday 11th April|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Munster|
|TBC||Zebre vs Scarlets|
|14:40||Connacht vs Ulster|
|Sunday 12th April|
|16:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Leinster|
|Friday 24th April|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Zebre|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|Dragons 25 - 30 Connacht|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Glasgow 19 - 16 Ospreys|
|Scarlets 25 - 25 Munster|
|Friday 20th February|
|Edinburgh 17 - 20 Ulster|
|Leinster 29 - 8 Zebre|
|Benetton Treviso 40 - 24 Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Leinster 14 - 16 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Zebre 10 - 54 Glasgow|
|Scarlets 32 - 14 Connacht|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Munster 33 - 16 Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 13th February|
|Edinburgh 24 - 16 Ospreys|
|Ulster 43 - 3 Benetton Treviso|
|Sunday 11th January|
|Ospreys 22 - 11 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Benetton Treviso 20 - 24 Ulster|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Zebre 7 - 31 Munster|
|Cardiff Blues 13 - 22 Leinster|
|Friday 9th January|
|Connacht 13 - 16 Edinburgh|
|Glasgow 22 - 7 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com