Leinster v Munster

Preview: Leinster v Munster

Munster boss Johann Van Graan has made several changes to his side ahead of their crucial United Rugby Championship clash against Leinster in Dublin (7:15pm).

Thomas Ahern, Andrew Conway, Dan Goggin and John Ryan are all drafted into the team, with Simon Zebo, Damien De Allende, Stephen Archer and Peter O’Mahony dropping out of the side. 

De Allende, Zebo and O’Mahony all join Tadgh Beirne, Dave Kilcoyne and RG Snyman on the sidelines, depriving Van Graan of 278 caps worth of international experience ahead of a must-win game at Aviva Stadium.

Conway’s return comes as a much needed boost for the province, with the Irish international recovering from a knee injury to make his first appearance since January. 

For Munster the permutations are simple: a win and the province are guaranteed to wrap up a home quarter-final and in all likelihood a home semi-final. However, should Munster lose they could fall to as low as sixth in the table and would likely face a trip to South Africa for the quarter-finals.

Just three points separates Munster in second to the Bulls in sixth, and a loss could see Munster fall behind the Stormers, Sharks or Ulster and the Bulls. The Stormers meet the Scarlets in Llanelli and the Bulls face Ospreys in Swansea, while Ulster host the Sharks in a crucial clash at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.

As for Leinster, the situation is more straightforward. The hosts are already guaranteed top spot and a home quarter-final. As a result, Leo Cullen has opted to rest several key contributors ahead of next weekend’s Champions Cup final against La Rochelle.

Aside from Ciaran Frawley, Cian Healy and Joe McCarthy, Cullen has opted for caution and has changed his entire squad following last weekend’s 40-17 win over Toulouse. However, the team still remarkably contains 10 Irish internationals, including the returning Ryan Baird and Jordan Larmour. 

Larmour will be playing his first match since returning from a hip flexor injury in March, while Baird hasn’t featured for the province since February after suffering a back injury with Ireland ahead of the Six Nations.

Despite the wholesale changes for Leinster, Cullen will be hopeful of continuing his record against Munster. Since taking over at Leinster ahead of the 2015-16 season, Cullen has lost just three matches against Munster, and has won seven of the last eight against Van Graan’s team. 

Cullen’s overall record against Munster stands at an insanely impressive 14-3, and will be looking to do the double over Munster for the third time since the 2017-18 season. Look for Leinster to try to make it 15-3 under Cullen this weekend. 

Leinster v Toulouse

Leinster blitz Toulouse to book Champions Cup Final berth

James Lowe scored two tries as Leinster blitzed Toulouse in a 40-17 win at Aviva Stadium to reach their first Champions Cup final since 2019.

Lowe has been in superb form throughout this postseason run, scoring eight tries in four games and played a starring role as Leinster booked their trip to Marseille in two weeks time.

Leo Cullen’s team will be keeping a close eye on Racing 92 and LA Rochelle, who play tomorrow afternoon in Lens as they head to Marseille looking to tie Toulouse with five titles in Europe’s elite competition. 

Johnny Sexton often saves his best for Toulouse and today was no different. Ireland’s talisman was at the forefront of everything Leinster did, as he registered three try assists and kicked 15 points to send Leinster to their sixth Champions Cup final.

However, the win came at a price as Leinster lost both Tadgh Furlong and Ronan Kelleher to injury. Furlong linked off after 17 minutes, while Kelleher exited just after halftime with a head injury. Cullen will be nervously waiting for news on their fitness. 

As for Toulouse, they were looking for their third Irish scalp in this tournament, but this proved to be one step too far for the defending champions, who came into this game off the back of their taxing penalty shootout win over Munster. Ugo Mola’s men were never at the races as Leinster came flying out of the blocks. 

Leinster started strongly as Sexton gave the hosts an early lead with a penalty. It didn’t take long for the defending champions to respond after Antoine Dupont opportunistically picked up a loose ball to run in from 95m out to give Toulouse a 3-7 lead.

That proved to be as good as it got for the visitors as Sexton added his second penalty of the game, before releasing Lowe on the inside for his first try of the game minutes later. Leinster’s deficit soon became a 13-7 advantage.

Leinster were in the mood for attack throughout the first half and soon had their second of the game soon as Josh Van Der Flier crashed over for the second successive week. Sexton converted again to make it 20-7. Thomas Ramos and Sexton traded penalties to make it 23-10. 

However, things went from bad to worse for the visitors as Emmanuel Maufou was sin-binned for taking Jameson Gibson-Park off the ball. 

Toulouse survived the sin-bin without further damage, but the resistance broke after the break as Lowe added his second try of the game to make it 30-10.

The French giants briefly threatened a fightback as Tolofua powered over from the back of a driving maul to make it 30-17. But all hope soon evaporated as Ross Byrne added a penalty in the dying minutes, before Hugo Keenan added a fourth try for the province to put a bit of gloss on the score-line. 

Munster v Stade Toulousain

CCup: Munster heartbreak after place kicks in Aviva Stadium

Munster saw their European hopes come to an end as they crashed out of the Champions Cup after losing out to Toulouse in a place kicking competition at Aviva Stadium.

The two teams wrote another thrilling chapter to their growing rivalry, as Toulouse made it back to back wins over Munster following their 33-40 win over The Red Army in last year’s knockout stages. 

On an enthralling afternoon in Dublin, the two teams couldn’t be separated after 100 minutes of play. and it went to a penalty shootout for just the second time in history. The first since the infamous Leicester Tigers vs Cardiff Blues semi-final in 2009.

Toulouse kept their composure in the shootout as they slotted over all four of their penalty kicks, and sent Munster crashing out of the competition for the second straight season. 

The hosts produced a monumental defensive effort as they carried a 10 point lead into the final 15 minutes of the game and looked to earn their first semi-final berth since 2019. But Munster fell short as three missed penalty attempts in the shootout saw Johann Van Graan’s men exit at the quarter-final stage in the most remarkable circumstances.

Munster started the game strongly as Alex Kendellan crashed over from close range to give the hosts an early lead. 

However, the defending champions couldn’t be denied as Romain Ntamack carried over from close range, before Matthis Lebel walked in for Ugo Mola’s side minutes later. Thomas Ramos converted both to make it 7-14.

Munster struggled to settle against the defending champions and Carbery’s missed penalty left Van Graan’s men reeling with just minutes left in the first half.

Nevertheless, Carbery made up for his kicking blunder as he produced a beautiful over-the-top pass to find Keith Earls, who scored in the corner for his 23rd Champions Cup try for the province. Carbery slotted over the difficult conversion to send Munster into the break level.

The hosts started the second period strongly as Chris Farrell broke through the defensive line, and released Mike Haley for the province’s third score of the afternoon. 

Things soon went from bad to worse for Toulouse as Rory Arnold was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Simon Zebo, before Carbery successfully added three points to Munster’s lead to make it 24-14.

Toulouse fought back as Lebel scored his second try of the afternoon to reduce the deficit to three points before Ramos added a late penalty to make it 24-24. Munster had the opportunity to close out the game moments later as Ben Healy attempted an audacious 56m penalty. Healy sent his attempt wide as the game went to extra time.

Both teams looked to deliver the killer blow in the extra period, as Ramos and Healy traded drop goal attempts. Neither could hit the final blow as extra time finished and a penalty shootout beckoned.

Conor Murray and Antoine Dupont both slotted over their attempts, before Healy sent his first attempt wide. Ramos, Carbery and Ntamack all successfully slotted over their kicks to make it 2-3 to Toulouse in the shootout.

Clontarf RFC v Terenure College RFC

1A Final – Clontarf edge Terenure in tight battle

Clontarf were named Division 1A Champions after a 29-23 victory over Terenure at the Aviva Stadium today.

It was an action-packed game from the very first whistle with Conor Kelly and Caolan Dooley exchanging penalties inside the first quarter of an hour, giving Clontarf a 6-3 lead.

Clontarf opted for a slower ball at the breakdown while Terenure looked to play at a high tempo through quick ball. After Terenure enjoyed possession inside the Clontarf half, they found the first try of the game after Peter Sylvester ran a great line off the back of a lineout.

Dooley converted to extend their advantage.

Shortly after, the Terenure place kicker added another three points from distance to stretch their lead.

Clontarf’s slow ball frustrated Seán Skehan’s side, leading to several penalties from Conor Kelly to bring his side back into the game. Dooley added another penalty for Terenure with five minutes remaining in the half to give his side a slender, one point lead but Clontarf struck right on the cusp of half time.

After patient build up play and phases of possession, tighthead Ben Griffin drove over from close range to find Tarf’s first try of the game. Kelly converted to give the Castle Avenue a six-point lead at the break.

Clontarf began the second period the brighter of the sides and found their reward just after the 48th minute mark. Dylan Donnellan scored his 19th try of the season off the back of a strong maul which Terenure struggled to stop.

Conor Kelly slotted the conversion over and increased his side’s advantage to 13 points.

The Lakelands outfit kept the pressure on Clontarf and after Colm De Buitlear came inches from scoring a try, Alan Bennie picked the ball off the back of the ruck and dived over the try line.

Caolan Dooley was left with a difficult angle to convert from, but he made it look easy and brought the score to 29-23.

Terenure’s replacements really caused Clontarf trouble with the likes of Conall Bloomer, Adam Tuite and Conor McCormack making massive contributions with their ball carrying ability and strength from the breakdown.

Clontarf continued to soak up the Terenure pressure and kept their six point lead to be named Energia All Ireland Division 1A Champions.

Ireland v Scotland

W6N Prev: Ireland V Scotland

Sam Monaghan returns from injury to start in the second row for Ireland in their final 2022 Women’s Six Nations match against Scotland at Kingspan Stadium.

Monaghan has been one of the few bright spots for a disappointing Ireland outfit this year, and is one of three changes for boss Greg McWilliams ahead of the clash. Vicky Irwin is drafted into the the team to make her debut at 15, whilst Nikki Caughley replaces the injured Nicole Cronin at outside half in Saturday’s dead rubber clash. 

However, Ireland head into this contest with much to prove. McWilliams’ team will be looking for revenge against Scotland, after Bryan Eassom’s team eliminated them from World Cup qualification in their 18-20 defeat to Scotland in September last year.

While both teams will be looking to end a disappointing campaign on a high, with Scotland looking to avoid getting a clean sweep of losses in the competition. 

The tournament has been a case of what could have been for the Scots, after they were ahead against both Wales and Italy. But failed to close out the games and lost by a combined 12 point margin. Eassom’s team instead had to settle for losing bonus points and are still searching for that elusive win.

Scotland are on an embarrassing run of 16 consecutive Six Nations defeats and haven’t tasted victory in the Six Nations since defeating Ireland 12-15 in March 2018 at Donnybrook, but can end four years of heartbreak with a win on Saturday. Eassom’s team could finish as high as fourth with a win and a favour from Wales, who face Italy. 

However, Ireland haven’t fared much better in 2022 and will be looking for just their second win of the tournament. McWilliams’ team have picked up just one win so far in the competition, registering a 29-8 win over Italy in Cork on the 10th April.

McWilliams’ team will also be looking to rebound after last weekend’s 69-0 defeat against Grand Slam chasing England. Ireland produced a valiant first half effort to restrict England to just two tries in the first period, before the Red Roses produced an attacking masterclass to score 59 second half points. 

However, history favours Ireland in this fixture, with McWilliams’ team winning four of their last five matches against Scotland in the Women’s Six Nations. Tomorrow’s game marks the first Six Nations meeting in two years between the sides, and first since Ireland edged Scotland 18-14 back in February 2020.

Leinster v Connacht

Lowe superb as Leinster demolish Connacht

James Lowe scored four tries as Leinster scored eight tries in a 56-20 second leg win over Connacht in the Champions Cup.

Lowe was in superb form throughout the two legs, as he scored an impressive six tries as Leinster continued their dominance over Connacht. Leinster have won nine of their last 10 games against the Galway province, and this one was as one-sided as it got.

The hosts scored eight tries as Jameson Gibson-Park, Tadgh Furlong and two tries from Robbie Henshaw joined Lowe on the scoreboard to help Leinster ease to a comfortable 82-41 win on aggregate.

As for the visitors, they failed to build off an impressive display last Friday as they trailed 28-3 at the break. Things got worse after the break as Connacht lost Finlay Bealham to a head injury, and were forced to play a spell with just 13 players after Jack Aungier was sin binned for a shoulder charge.

Indiscipline haunted Connacht throughout the evening in Dublin as the visitors saw yellow twice on Good Friday. Whilst the infamous uncontested scrums law controversially returned to Aviva Stadium once again as Aungier’s yellow-card meant Connacht were forced to play with uncontested scrums for a brief spell, and amazingly Connacht only conceded once in that spell.

However, it didn’t start out that way for Connacht, as the visitors produced the perfect start. Jack Carty’s early penalty got the hosts on the board.

But that proved to be as good as it got as Gibson-Park raced away for Leinster’s first of the evening, before Henshaw brushed off a poor Bundee Aki tackle to score the second for Leo Cullen’s men.

It wasn’t long before Leinster picked up their third as Tadgh Furlong crashed over from a pick & go to make it 21-3 after 30 minutes. Things got worse for Connacht moments later as Bundee Aki was sin binned for a high tackle on Sexton, and the hosts made Connacht pay.

Lowe grabbed his first just before the break after an intricate bit of play between him and Sexton, while Henshaw quickly added his second moments after halftime to make it 35-3.

Connacht briefly threatened a fightback as Tiernan O’Halloran crashed over after a well-worked move down the left channel, but were soon down to 13 men after Jack Aungier was yellow carded for a high tackle on Josh Van Der Flier.

As a result of the yellow card and Finlay Bealham’s head injury, it saw a return of the controversial law that occured during Ireland’s test match against Italy weeks ago, and Connacht conceded their sixth not long after as Lowe grabbed his second of the day.

Despite facing imminent defeat, Andy Friend’s team showed an act of defiance as tries from Sammy Arnold and Abraham Papalii added some respectability to the scoreline.

However, the hosts had the last laugh as Lowe added a further two tries in the final ten minutes to put the nail in Connacht’s coffin.

Lansdowne RFC v Terenure College RFC

Lansdowne RFC v University College Cork Rugby

Ireland v Wales

Rose and Jones inflict defeat in Ireland’s 6N opener

Two late Donna Rose tries combined with a Hannah Jones effort, handed new Ireland head coach Greg McWilliams his first defeat as Ireland coach, as they fell to a 27-19 defeat to Wales at the RDS this evening.

Ireland had looked strong getting an early lead on the board, but Wales kept pressure applied throughout the afternoon, with the two late scores the difference.

A disappointing start to the tenure of McWilliams, with plenty to build on as the three tries scored by the Irish were sadly not enough to take the win on the day.

Wales had the better of the possession in the early exchanges, they were pinning Ireland back into their own half, as they struggled to overturn the ball in the rucks.

Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe managed to cross after 17 minutes for the opening try, she sprinted down the line and evaded the challenges to cross in the corner, Nicole Cronin made it 7-0 with the conversion.

Wales looked dangerous in the attack and were causing issues for Ireland, after a lineout they drove to the line with hooker Carys Phillips crossing for the try, making it 7-5 after 27 minutes.

The Irish response was quick and cancelled out the Welsh try, a great attack saw Sam Monaghan break for the line she offloaded to Linda Djougang who crossed in space, Cronin kicking the extras for a 14-5 advantage after 29 minutes, a lead they took to the break.

After the restart Wales looked dangerous yet again, pushing Ireland back into their own try line, Jasmine Joyce getting the offload outside before crossing over to reduce the gap to 14-10, after 47 minutes had elapsed on the clock.

Wales thought they had taken the lead after 53 minutes after crossing for another try, replacement hooker Kelsey Jones looked to have touched it down, but after TMO review the try was ruled out.

Against the run of play, Ireland had their third try of the afternoon after 57 minutes, Stacey Flood linking up with Eimear Considine, and it was Flood who touched down after getting the offload, she made it 19-10 as the Irish were living off scraps.

Rose scored her first Welsh try after 65 minutes, another driving maul saw the Irish driven over their line, as the prop managed to make it a four point game 19-15, Wales never letting off the pressure throughout the contest.

After another band of pressure late on it was Rose who crossed again after 74 minutes, Ireland down to 14 as Considine was sent to the sin bin after double digit tackles, after they ran the phases it was Rose who touched down at the back of the maul.

After 75 minutes the score was out of favour for the Irish, trailing 22-19 they needed to find something but they couldn’t get the elusive score, in the end it was Jones who ran clear to get the bonus point for Wales in the 79th minute

Ireland v Scotland

Grand Slam for Ireland’s 20’s earning Six Nations crown

It was a Grand Slam win for the U20’s today in Musgrave Park. Ireland proved the dominating team from the start against Scotland, securing the bonus point in the first half.

An impressive back line kept the tries coming in the second half. Even with a 14-man team at 70 minutes, the visitors side couldn’t compete with the top of the table champions.

With Ireland firm favourites for the match off the back of four wins from four, they started the game with a strong attack. Jude Postlethwaite made a good run just a minute in, in what would be the first of many impressive carries for the Ulster player.

Ireland quickly worked up the field but a steal in Scotland’s 22’ saw their efforts unrewarded.  Jack Boyle was quick to turn it around and minutes later Magurie’s pass out to Morrisey brought the ball just short of the line. A quick carry from Matthew Devine however saw Boyle get over the line for the first try of the game at just five minutes in.

The restart proved promising again and after some excellent phases by the backline the home team were once again metres form the line. Crothers made good ground in a carry and a flat pass from Devine saw Gibbons add to the board, opening up the lead.

A lost offload from Postlethwaite resulted in the first scrum won by Scotland, fifteen minutes but the kick was cleared by Tector giving Ireland back possession. Gibbons once again made himself known with a strong run up the field and an inside pass on the blind out to Devine brought the inside the 22’.

Postlethwaite was there for the offload and after missed tackles from a poor Scottish defence Ireland got their third try of the game, leaving the scoreboard 17-0 just 24 minutes in. Ireland's attack off a scrum saw the backs flourish again with Postlethwaite once again making ground.

A slumped Scotland defence saw him get to the 22 and a loose offload was quickly regained by the home side. The visitors scrambling defence was obvious against Ireland's cool hands and despite the ball being held up Ireland got back inside the 22’ from the restart.

After a pack effort Boyle brought the ball over the line, but it wasn’t rewarded for the forward. It wasn’t to matter however as it was James Cullhane who got the bonus point win for the home side after a chip of the boot of Tector bounced in his favour. 

Scotland McKnight put points on the board for the visitors after the first real set piece for the Scotland side. A won lineout and a pass from their scrumhalf saw them gain ground but they were put into touch. Chay Mullins made an impact coming on for Patrick Campbell, after a failed HIA test for the full back. A flat pass from Mullins out to Ben Carson made it try number five for the dominating team, a memorable one for the back having come off four months of injury.

The second half saw Ireland only add to the board. A strong restart saw Mullins make up ground after a sidestep carry. Devine got the pop from the offload and made it his fourth try in four games after some serious feet. Ireland’s pack put up a strong attack and a maul and quick hands from McCormick saw another try for Ireland.

A high tackle from Townsend and an offside from McLoughlin inside their own 22’ was marked Scotland’s second chance.  After Ireland gave away a series of penalty advantages. Scotland’s forwards worked up to the line and got through the Irish defence, resulting in a fourth penalty in a row. It was Postlethwaite who took the hit for the team, taking the yellow card at 65 minutes.

With Ireland hungry for the ball a last minute effort from Scotland after a decent run wasn’t to be after the ball was held up on the line, by the forward pack. The visitors' knock on meant Ireland U20’s had the last say of the game which they dominated from the start, showing a maturity and collectiveness in the final minutes that Scotland just didn’t possess.

While Captain Crothers marked his team’s motto as just focusing on “Winning the next moment” this win in Musgrave Park, marks the end for now for this championship as the Ireland U 20’s take home The Six Nations title and Grand Slam win, for the second time in three seasons.