Howlett try helps Munster win title

Munster 19 Leinster 9
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The Independent Online

Leinster, the European champions, came crashing back down to earth as Munster edged a pulsating Magners League final. Doug Howlett scored a try in the first-half to put the Red Army on the road to victory and although Leinster fought their way into a second-half lead, thanks to the boot of Jonathan Sexton, a score from Keith Earls and a penalty try put the result beyond doubt.

The Munster captain, Paul O'Connell, had said that Leinster's Heineken Cup win against Northampton last week had fired up his men. They will take huge satisfaction from winning their third Magners title and from being the first side to beat the European champions.

Leinster had the first opportunity to score but Sexton was way off target. Munster scored the first try of the match after 11 minutes. It took a bit of magic from the centre Lifeimi Mafi to produce an opening – he put Howlett over after goose-stepping past Eoin Reddan and drawing in Luke Fitzgerald. Ronan O'Gara converted. Sexton kicked a penalty after 28 minutes and it was 7-3 to Munster at the break.

A trademark Brian O'Driscoll break put Leinster in a good position and after several phasesthe Munster lock Donncha O'Callaghan was shown a yellow card and Sexton kicked a second penalty. Fergus McFadden could then have scored as Leinster took control but the centre failed to hold Sexton's long pass. Leinster took the lead on 59 minutes, when Sexton kicked his third penalty.

Munster responded and looked to have scored, only for a superb piece of defending by Fitzgerald to stop man and ball. The break-through came on 65 minutes when Earls took O'Gara's cross-kick and stepped past Isa Nacewato score in the corner. Munster put the final nail in the European champions' coffin with a penaltytry following a succession of scrums at the death.

Munster F Jones (P Warwick, 75); D Howlett, D Barnes, L Mafi, K Earls, R O'Gara, Murray; M Horan (W du Preez, 55), D Varley (M Sherry, 58), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan (D Leamy, 67), P O'Connell (capt), D Ryan, J Coughlan, D Wallace.

Leinster I Nacewa; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, F McFadden, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan (P O'Donohoe, 76); H van der Merwe (C Healy, 58), R Strauss, M Ross (S Wright, 69), L Cullen (capt), N Hines, S O'Brien (K McLaughlin, 58), J Heaslip, S Jennings (A Dundon, 69).

Referee N Owens (Wales).


Tries: Howlett, Earls, Penalty

Cons: O'Gara 2


Pens: Sexton 3