By Brenden Nel
Munster finally broke their duck against PRO14 champions Leinster under South African coach Johann van Graan, with a man-of-the-match performance by Springbok midfielder Damian de Allende sparking his side into a magical victory that will be remembered for a long time to come.
De Allende broke in the opening minutes, turned Leinster fullback Jordan L’amour in circles, then offloaded to Conor Murray for the first of his two tries as Munster recorded their first win in Dublin since 2014 and only their second since Van Graan has taken over the side.
While it would be easy to say that Leinster had one eye on the European Cup semifinal clash with La Rochelle this coming weekend, fielding only three players that started in their PRO14 final win over Munster, the win was bigger for Munster as they broke their duck and won away from home to lift some of the pressure on Van Graan. But the Munster coach wasn’t going overboard after the 27-3 win, saying it was a step up from their narrow loss to Toulouse in the European Cup and they continued to build.
“We’re very happy about the result, it was a very physical game with two quality sides who went at each other. The first try we scored was a very good broken field attack, it was a titanic battle and once we got our noses in front I felt we kept the pressure on,” Van Graan said after the game.
“It’s very good for this group to come and win in the RDS,” said van Graan after their 27-3 win eased some of the pain from the defeat in the Pro14 final here four weeks ago.
“I think we took some of the lessons we learned in the final, we worked hard in the last few weeks. I think it was a real physical battle. It’s the first round of Rainbow Cup and, win or lose, we’ll review this and move on.
“I thought it was a very good team performance by all involved. Tactically we picked in a specific way, our starters did really well, and the impact from the bench was really good. I felt it was a good build on the Toulouse performance from a few weeks ago.”
De Allende’s form made him an easy man-of-the-match candidate, and the big midfielder is hitting his stride at the right time in the competition.
Elsewhere George North’s injury while turning out for the Ospreys against Cardiff Blues has put his British and Irish Lions hopes in doubt.
North appeared to get stuck in the turf as he suffered a leg injury in the 36-14 win for his side and there is real concern the 105-cap utility back may not be ready when Warren Gatland names his side to tour South Africa.
A last minute try from replacement winger Peter Sullivan saw Connacht shock Ulster at the Kingspan to open the Rainbow Cup and saw the captain’s challenge trial law used to good effect to give Connacht only their second victory in Belfast since 1960.
Benetton also shocked Glasgow Warriors with a 46-19 victory in Treviso on Saturday, scoring six tries to three in an excellent performance, while Scarlets were on the losing side in a 12-try thriller, going down 52-32 to a rampant Dragons side in the other Welsh derby on Sunday.
In the weekend’s other game Edinburgh beat Zebre 24-18.
South African sides will kick off their part of the tournament on Saturday when the Sharks travel to Cape Town to face the Stormers. The Bulls face the Lions in the other Rainbow Cup SA game on Saturday.
Ulster 24 Connacht 26
Edinburgh 24 Zebre 18
Benetton 46 Glasgow Warriors 19
Ospreys 36 Cardiff Blues 14
Leinster 3 Munster 27
Dragons 52 Scarlets 32