The eastern province will travel to Wales for next weekend’s decider.
Leinster A 46
Munster A 25
LEINSTER ADVANCED INTO the final of the inaugural Celtic Cup after pulling away in the second half to beat Munster 46-25 in the sides’ last pool encounter.
Ahead of Leinster’s Heineken Champions Cup opener against Wasps at the RDS this evening, the A side made it a positive start to the weekend as their seven-try win over Munster ensured a clean sweep of six victories in six games in Pool 1 of the Celtic Cup.
Leinster A will travel to Wales for the final next weekend, taking on Scarlets, Cardiff Blues or the Ospreys depending on results in Pool 2 over the next two days.
Their power up front, particularly in the maul, was important against Munster in an at-times scrappy encounter, as flanker Scott Penny scored two tries and sub hooker Bryan Byrne dotted down, while replacement scrum-half Hugh O’Sullivan, centre Jimmy O’Brien, and Ireland international pair Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne also scored.
Munster were perhaps the stronger side in the first-half – with back row Gavin Coombes outstanding – but trailed 15-11 at the interval nonetheless, and dipped in the second 40.
There was positive news with the introduction of Tyler Bleyendaal for his first appearance since February, the Kiwi playing just under 30 minutes at inside centre on his return from a neck injury.
Munster made a damaging start as a dropped ball in midfield allowed Caelan Doris to hack ahead for Leinster, with O’Brien adding another nudge before Kearney made a skillful pick-up on the move to dive over.
Bill Johnston brought Munster onto the scoreboard with a penalty after the scrum fired up, then added a second after Leinster openside Penny was sin-binned for being offside in defence close to his own tryline.
Out-half Noel Reid edged Leinster briefly back in front with a penalty but scrum-half Jack Stafford burst over for Munster’s score soon after following sharp work down the left-hand side by fullback Liam Coombes and wing Alex Wootton.
Leinster out-half Reid missed a penalty after his pack won a scrum penalty but they ended the half in the lead and with an extra man after Munster’s Sean O’Connor saw yellow for illegally halting a threatening maul from the home side.
Within two minutes, Leinster had their second try as Penny – back from the bin – powered over from close-range, allowing Reid to convert for a 15-11 half-time lead.
Leinster started the second half superbly, tighthead Vakh Abdaladze featuring in a passage of slick handling that provided the initial field position for their third try, finished at the back of a maul by Penny.
O’Connor returned with Munster having conceded 12 points during his sin-bin period, and the visitors were able to instantly hit back, a strong carry from Gavin Coombes helping to lay the platform for wing Sean French to dive over, Johnston converting to draw his team back to 20-18.
Leinster’s maul was utterly dominant, however, and forced its way over again in the 51st minute, with hooker Byrne the man to dot down this time, Reid following up with the conversion.
Munster introduced Bleyendaal but Leinster were on top and in no mood to ease up, impressive tighthead Abdaladze breaking in midfield and feeding a sharp inside pass to the trailing O’Sullivan for their fifth try, converted by Reid again.
Leinster led 34-18 but Munster weren’t just finished yet and scored a beautiful try heading into the final quarter, sub hooker Kevin O’Byrne offloading to O’Connor, who freed captain Johnston to finish under the posts and convert his own score.
Leinster’s attack was still in good shape, however, and a break from replacement wing Michael Silvester set the foundation for Reid and Kearney to send Adam Byrne over in the right corner.
Ireland 7s international O’Brien crossed for Leinster’s seventh try with five minutes left, Reid converting for the fourth time, sending them into the first-ever Celtic Cup final in style.
Tries: Dave Kearney, Scott Penny , Bryan Byrne, Hugh O’Sullivan, Adam Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien
Conversions: Noel Reid [4 from 7]
Penalties: Noel Reid [1 from 2]
Tries: Jack Stafford, Sean French, Bill Johnston
Conversions: Bill Johnston [3 from 3]
Penalties: Bill Johnston [2 from 2]
LEINSTER A: Jack Kelly (captain) (Michael Silvester ’48); Adam Byrne, Jimmy O’Brien, Tom Daly (Ciarán Frawley ’70), Dave Kearney; Noel Reid, Paddy Patterson (Hugh O’Sullivan ’46); Peter Dooley (Ed Byrne ‘HT), Ronan Kelleher (Bryan Byrne ‘HT), Vakh Abdaladze (Jack Aungier ’70); Mick Kearney, Ross Molony; Josh Murphy (Max Deegan ’46), Scott Penny (yellow card ’19), Caelan Doris (Oisín Dowling ’58).
MUNSTER A: Liam Coombes; Sean French, Shane Daly, Alex McHenry (Tyler Bleyendaal ’52), Alex Wootton (Conor Phillips ’67); Bill Johnston (captain), Jack Stafford (Charlie O’Doherty ’78); Josh Wycherley (Cronan Gleeson ’57), Diarmuid Barron (Kevin O’Byrne ’45), Jeremy Loughman (Keynan Knox ’72); Fineen Wycherley, Darren O’Shea; Sean O’Connor (yellow card ’34) (Paddy Kelly ’78), Gavin Coombes, Dave O’Callaghan (Dan Walsh ’52).
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