Munster see of Leinster at Thomond Park

Andrew Conway scored Munster's second try against Leinster

Andrew Conway scored Munster’s second try against Leinster

Munster were full value for their 28-13 derby victory at Thomond Park as they completed their first Guinness Pro12 double over Leinster since 2009.

Anthony Foley's men built an 11-6 interval lead in Limerick with CJ Stander crossing for a 16th-minute try.

Andrew Conway came back to haunt his former team with a well-taken try in the 44th minute and during Darragh Fanning's sin-bin period, Munster replacement Dave O'Callaghan collected try number three before Ian Keatley capped off his 13-point kicking haul.

Stand-in captain Shane Jennings responded with Leinster's lone try, but they could not avoid their first league defeat since Munster visited them in early October.

The Irish Rugby Football Union player welfare programme may have robbed this festive fixture of some of its headline acts – including the likes of Peter O'Mahony, Paul O'Connell, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip – but it was, nonetheless, a full-blooded encounter.

Keatley and Ian Madigan swapped early penalties, Munster forcing a maul infringement initially and then their loosehead John Ryan was pinged for not rolling away quickly enough.

Faced with bunched midfields, both kickers cleverly exploited the space in behind before the Munster pack got on the front foot with some muscular carries.

Leinster had to replace a groggy Dominic Ryan and as they adjusted, the hosts struck for the game's opening try. Stander, who temporarily lost his jersey, raced onto a Duncan Williams pass to make the line despite the presence of Luke Fitzgerald and Dave Kearney.

Keatley missed the conversion but soon threatened on an arcing run over halfway, Leinster scrambling back and then responding with a strong scrum on the hosts' 22.

Keatley was caught offside, allowing Madigan to close the gap to two points, albeit only briefly as Ryan's replacement Jordi Murphy coughed up a penalty which Keatley forced through the posts.

Madigan curled his next penalty effort wide and Leinster fell further behind in the opening minutes of the second period, Keatley's flat pass seeing Conway crash through three tacklers and he had Isaac Boss hanging off him when he touched down.

The left-sided conversion was added by Keatley to open up an 18-6 advantage and despite plenty of endeavour from Fitzgerald and Zane Kirchner, Leinster were getting little change from a resolute Munster defence.

Winger Fanning earned his yellow card for pinching a ruck ball that referee Nigel Owens deemed was not out, and that allowed Munster to dictate play approaching the hour mark.

Keatley landed the first of two penalty attempts and Foley's charges then hurt Leinster up front again, picking and carrying at close quarters until O'Callaghan evaded the grasp of both Jennings and Kane Douglas to score with 62 minutes gone.

After Keatley's conversion, Leinster managed to hit back within seven minutes. A prolonged spell of pressure ended with Jack Conan holding off JJ Hanrahan and getting his offload away for Jennings to dot down to the left of the posts.

Madigan added the extras and although both packs had sniffs of the try-line late on, impressive Munster had done enough to warrant the 15-point winning margin.

Connacht beaten by Ulster in Belfast

Rory McIlroy on hand to see Ulster win

Rory McIlroy on hand to see Ulster win

Ulster got back to winning ways in the Guinness PRO12 and moved up one place to fourth but they were made to scrap every inch of the way by Connacht on St Stephen’s Day.

Pat Lam's visitors could have even snatched their first win in Belfast since 1960, but a tight and fairly dire affair ended 13-10 in the hosts' favour.

The entire game on a wet and cold night saw just two tries, with Ulster winger Craig Gilroy getting over in the first half and then Connacht second row Aly Muldowney crashing over in the second 40 minutes.

Ulster had led 10-3 at the break, but the westerners came back and, although they made off with a losing bonus point, will be rightly disappointed at not getting more from this one in a game which saw both sides missing front-line Ireland players who had been rested.

The result halted Ulster's losing run of having been beaten in three of their previous four games, and got Neil Doak's men back on track towards their aim of making the play-offs – even though the performance was well short of where it should have been.

Connacht were out of the blocks first on another typically rainy night at the Kingspan, and Jack Carty nailed a fourth-minute penalty after the visitors had countered well from a Paddy Jackson high kick.

The scores were then tied just before the 15-minute mark when Jackson slotted a penalty.

Ulster launched a line-out maul four minutes later after winning a penalty and from this Jackson threw a wonderfully timed inside pass to winger Gilroy, who managed to spin his way through some weak Connacht tackling to cross the line.

Jackson converted and Ulster had earned themselves a 10-3 lead, which really should have been 13-3 in the 26th minute but Jackson was off target with a penalty.

Neither side scored in the remainder of the half, with Ulster defending their line right at the end of the opening 40 minutes and winning a penalty as Connacht expended a great deal of energy only to come away with nothing.

The second half was largely a slog-fest as the weather worsened and the error rate spiralled, but the stalemate was finally broken when a gilt-edged opportunity presented itself in the 62nd minute after Connacht were undone at a breakdown, and Jackson stretched Ulster's lead to 13-3.

But the visitors struck next four minutes later after Gilroy was penalised for taking Matt Healy out in the air and, after Jack Carty put the ball in the corner with a great kick, Connacht threw to Willie Faloon at the back and trundled over with second row Muldowney getting the touchdown.

Carty converted to cut Ulster's lead to three points, but there were no further points scored – despite both sides applying some pressure towards the end.

Kirchner try wins it for Leinster against Connacht

Luke Fitzgerald and Leinster came through at the RDS

Luke Fitzgerald and Leinster came through at the RDS

Zane Kirchner’s opportunist 78th-minute try sealed a deserved Guinness Pro12 derby victory for Leinster over Connacht on a cold, windy night at the RDS.

Matt Healy attempted to keep Jimmy Gopperth's touch-finding kick in play and Kirchner swooped on the loose ball to score as Leinster avenged their narrow September loss in Galway with a 21-11 win on Friday.

Shane Jennings' early touchdown from a lineout maul was just reward for an excellent opening from Leinster, who profited from the ninth-minute sin-binning of Connacht lock Aly Muldowney.

Gopperth added a penalty but Connacht, who had the wind behind them in the first half, reduced the arrears to 8-6 by the break thanks to two Jack Carty penalties.

Two more place kicks from Gopperth widened the margin to eight points until Connacht hit back with seven minutes left, as George Naoupu drove over with Devin Toner in the sin-bin.

The visitors' only try went unconverted and South African Kirchner made his own good luck to put the result beyond doubt, with Gopperth clinically adding the extras from wide on the right.

Mike Ross signs new Leinster contract

Mike Ross staying with Leinster

Mike Ross staying with Leinster

Ireland prop Mike Ross has signed a new one-year contract which commits him to Leinster until June 2016.

The 35-year-old made his competitive debut for the province in 2009 and has gone on to make more than 100 appearances, while also winning 44 caps for his country.

Irish Rugby Football Union performance director David Nucifora said: "Mike has shown his value at both provincial and national level over the past number of seasons and we are delighted we have secured his services until the end of the 2016 season."

Leinster chief Mick Dawson added: "Mike has made a huge contribution to the Leinster environment since joining us in 2009.

"He continues to be an integral member of our squad and is also playing a key role in the development of emerging talent at the club.

"His performances for club and country this season illustrate his value to Irish rugby."

Ross himself said: "There is a huge amount of talent in the squad and it is an exciting time to be involved with both Leinster and Ireland.

"The next 12 months will be incredibly busy and challenging but also have the potential to be very rewarding too."

Ireland line-up England warm-up at Twickenham

Paul O'Connell to lead Ireland at Twickenham

Paul O’Connell to lead Ireland at Twickenham

Ireland will conclude a busy World Cup warm-up schedule next year by tackling England at Twickenham.

The Irish Rugby Football Union announced on Wednesday that head coach Joe Schmidt and his players will face a four-Test programme ahead of the tournament.

Ireland's opening game in the Guinness Summer Series will be against Wales in Cardiff on August 8, followed by successive home appointments with Scotland (August 15) and Wales (August 29), before meeting England on September 5.

Ireland's opening World Cup clash sees them take on Canada in Cardiff on September 19. Their other pool opponents are Italy, Romania and France.

Munster lose but bag bonus point

Ian Keatley's last-gasp penalty ensured Munster salvaged a losing bonus point

Ian Keatley’s last-gasp penalty ensured Munster salvaged a losing bonus point


Munster's European Champions Cup destiny is slipping out of their hands after they were beaten 26-19 by star-studded Clermont Auvergne at Stade Marcel-Michelin.

Munster had never lost the back-to-back contests of rounds three and four but Clermont became the first to do that double over the former champions following their historic 16-9 win at Thomond Park a week earlier.

It means Clermont move four points clear at the top of a hugely competitive Pool 1 having collected 17 points, ahead of Saracens, with Munster third on 10 points – the Irish team facing Saracens and Sale Sharks next month.

The match was a fast and furious contest but – while Munster gave it their all – it was Clermont who had the class where it mattered most in the backs.

Munster started strongly and went six points clear with two Ian Keatley penalties – and his injury-time effort earned them a losing bonus point – but Clermont produced some glorious flowing rugby to conjure up a couple of memorable tries.

Wesley Fofana was one of those weaving his magic and Munster simply ran out of defenders for skipper Damien Chouly to finish off a magnificent team try.

Then, just before the break, a scintillating solo effort from wing Noa Nakaitaci produced another contender for try of the tournament and Camille Lopez's conversion made it 15-6 at the break.

Munster had contested every scrap of possession with great intensity – Paul O'Connell always in the thick of things – but a yellow card for full back Felix Jones for a trip on outside half Lopez, who ended up with 11 points from the boot, left them a man short and facing an even higher mountain to climb.

Clermont had the upper hand in the scrums while Munster had their best moments at the breakdown but, when it came to posing threats with the ball in hand, Clermont looked streets ahead.

When Lopez sent a pinpoint cross kick for Chouly to collect unopposed and cross for his second try and Clermont's third, the victory was secured.

Munster hooker Duncan Casey finally found the way to the Clermont line late on and Keatley converted before his last-gasp penalty rescued a potentially crucial bonus point.