Leinster 25 Munster 6
As exemplified by his confidently-struck penalty, though, Sexton was not about to let all of the early good work from Contepomi go to waste.
Indeed, he very nearly created a try for Fitzgerald with a clever cross-field kick as Leinster continued to press.
When restored to their full complement, they finally struck. Unsurprisingly, O’Driscoll played a key role, drawing two men towards him before releasing Nacewa, who pierced the Munster line with the aid of a magnificent line.
Leinster’s utility man blazed into the Munster 22 before spinning a measured pass out to the left to the supporting D’Arcy, who had the pace and the momentum to propel himself over the whitewash.
Sexton failed to convert, allowing O’Gara to draw Munster to within five points with a penalty five minutes before the break but there was no mistaking the fact that the defending champions were wobbling.
With 15 minutes in which to regroup, one expected a Munster backlash at the start of the second half. However, Leinster did not even give them time to start one, silencing The Red Army once more with a try from Fitzgerald.
Again it was a classic Leinster score, the men in navy and blue working it wide swiftly through the hands of Nacewa and O’Driscoll before Horgan deftly flicking the ball into the path of Leinster’s young Lion. Fitzgerald still had Paul Warwick in front of him but the winger stepped inside the full-back with consummate ease to score a wonderful try.
Munster were crumbling. Unforced errors were creeping in all over the pitch. They raised themselves for one last onslaught but after a period of sustained pressure, O’Driscoll stepped out of the line to intercept a loose from O’Gara before streaking clear to score under the posts.
Sexton’s conversion from right in front of the posts put 19 points between the side. Munster have become synonymous with Heineken Cup miracles but as had been evident perhaps from the very early in the game this was not to their day.
Leinster, for so long criticized for their mental resolve, their bottle, had finally stood up and been counted.
Munster: Paul Warwick; Doug Howlett, Keith Earls, Lifeimi Mafi, Ian Dowling; Peter Stringer, Ronan O'Gara; Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes; Donncha O'Callaghan, Paul O'Connell; Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy.
Replacements: Denis Fogarty, Tony Buckley, Mick O'Driscoll, Niall Ronan, Mike Prendergast, Barry Murphy, Denis Hurley.
Leinster: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Felipe Contepomi, Chris Whitaker; Cian Healy, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright; Leo Cullen, Malcolm O'Kelly; Rocky Elsom, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: John Fogarty, Ronan McCormack, Devin Toner, Sean O'Brien, Simon Keogh, Jonathan Sexton, Girvan Dempsey.
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