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Saturday, 15 December, 2001, 16:50 GMT
Leinster win Irish battle
Leinster 24-20 Munster
Fourteen-man Leinster produced a tremendous fightback to win the Celtic League title at Lansdowne Road.
Matt Williams' team overcame the handicap of having Eric Miller sent off in the first half to stun Munster in the all-Irish decider.
Munster appeared in control early in the second half when they led 15-6.
However, Leinster hit back with two tremendous tries to shock their Irish rivals.
Munster made the better start and their first attack into Leinster territory yielded a typically barnstorming try in the fifth minute.
Rob Henderson, declared fit only hours before the match, seemed to have acted rashly when he ran the ball instead of allowing O'Gara take the simple three points in front of the posts.
But the Lions centre burst through two tackles and the ground gained enabled the following-up Anthony Foley to crash over under the posts.
O'Gara converted to give Munster a 7-0 lead.
Leinster regrouped to charge into Munster territory and Spooner atoned for an earlier miss by slotting over a ninth minute penalty to reduce Munster's lead to four points.
However, Leinster's composure was not all that it might have been in the opening quarter.
Fly-half Spooner failed to find touch on a couple of occasions and then kicked a penalty over the endline when attempting to put Munster deep into their '22.
However, Shane Horgan restored Leinster morale with a magnificent break in the 22nd minute which nearly yielded a try.
Dominic Crotty's last-ditch tackle felled Horgan inches from the Munster line but Peter Stringer's replacement Mike Prendergast was then sin-binned for killing the ball.
From the penalty, Spooner reduced Munster's lead to a single point.
The competitive nature of the match then turned ugly when Eric Miller aimed an outrageous kick at fellow Irish international Anthony Foley and was red-carded.
It was an uncharacterstic act of thuggery from the normally sporting Miller.
O'Gara seemed certain to punish the indiscretion with another three Munster points but from in front of the posts, the Irish international dreadfully pulled the effort wide.
Denis Hickie had his first run at the Munster defence in the 35th minute but his attempted chip and chase was superbly gathered by former Australian international forward Jim Williams.
Another Henderson burst set up Munster's second try in the 39th minute.
After the ball had then been fed wide, John Kelly appeared to have wasted the try-scoring chance but O'Gara's superb long pass enabled John O'Neill to touch down in the corner.
O'Gara missed the conversion but Munster went in at half-time in a seemingly strong position at 12-6 ahead and with a man advantage.
The Irish fly-half made up for his earlier misses with a glorious penalty from 51 metres four minutes after half-time.
But if anything, the Munster score seemed to rally the opposition.
Shane Horgan, later named man of the match, immediately produced another burst deep into Munster territory and O'Driscoll maintained the pressure with a break which earned a penalty.
Spooner's successful kick left six points between the teams again.
Another Spooner penalty reduced Munster's to three points in the 64th minute after Hickie's break had earned the chance.
Hickie was centrally involved in the 66th minute try which put Leinster ahead for the first time in the match.
His counter-attack saw the ball being fed to Horgan on the burst and the centre off-loaded possession to the overlapping Gordon D'Arcy who scored in the corner.
Spooner, who had now shed his first half nerves, brilliantly added the conversion to extend Leinster's lead to 19-15.
Leinster were now firmly in the ascendency and O'Driscoll's superb chip and chase yielded his side's second try in five minutes.
The Lions star seemed certain to score the try himself but after he was hauled down illegally, Horgan continued to win the race for the touch down.
Munster produced a typically battling response as they attempted to fight back.
Horgan did cross the Leinster line in the second minute of injury-time but after O'Gara had missed the conversion, referee Nigel Whitehouse blew the final whistle.
Leinster: G Dempsey; D Hickie, B O'Driscoll, S Horgan, G D'Arcy; N Spooner, B O'Meara; R Corrigan (capt), S Byrne, P Wallace, L Cullen, M O'Kelly, E Miller, V Costello, K Gleeson. Replacements: Casey for Cullen 58 mins.
Munster: D Crotty; J O'Neill, J Kelly, R Henderson, A Horgan: R O'Gara, M Prendergast; M Horan, F Sheahan, P Clohessy, M Galwey (c), P O'Connell, J Williams, A Foley, A Quinlan. Replacements: M Cahill for Clohessy 61, Mullins for Crotty 68 mins; O'Driscoll for Galwey 73 mins; McMahon for O'Connell 73 mins.
Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales).
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