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Relentless Leinster smother Munster challenge to retain Pro14 title

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Leinster 16 Munster 6

Leinster’s maintained their Indian sign over their auld rivals to claim a fourth Pro14 in a row and a sixth victory over Munster in succession, the longest in the fixture’s history.

When you know how to win, you know how to win, and in stark contrast to Munster, Leinster’s winning know-how in semi-finals and finals has become a habit.

In truth, although Leinster only put themselves two scores clear entering the last 10 minutes, this never felt in any great doubt. Certainly Leinster were the dominant from the off to the finish in what will be as sobering a setback for Munster as any they’ve suffered in the last trophyless 10 years.

It was no classic and defences were on top. But all that said and done, Leinster had better launch plays, with Luke McGrath and Ross Byrne utilising wraparounds or hitting Robbie Henshaw. They also carried harder into and over the gainline, and hence were much more effective at building through the phases.

Luke McGrath consoles Tadhg Beirne after Leinster’s Pro14 final win over Munster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Luke McGrath consoles Tadhg Beirne after Leinster’s Pro14 final win over Munster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Very uncharacteristically though, save for a couple of penalties, they failed to convert about half a dozen visits deep inside the Munster 22 into tries and so trooped off six-all at the break despite dominating the first half-hour.

However, they reverted to a dog-eared script to score the game’s only try through their forwards’ relentless close-in charges soon after the resumption, and such was their vastly superior accuracy in much of what they did that that was pretty much it.

Rónan Kelleher and Josh van der Flier began like express trains, Robbie Henshaw maintained his rich vein of form, while the influence of Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan grew and grew.

The one blemish, particularly with Toulon due here in six days, was that Johnny Sexton departed for an HIA soon after his arrival and did not return,

Leinster targeted Joey Carbery in defence and negated the poaching threat of CJ Stander, Tadhg Beirne and Peter O’Mahony with the sharpness of their clear-outs and the only Munstermen to make any headway into the thick blue line were Gavin Coombes and Dave Kilcoyne.

Working off static ball, not for the first time, Munster’s attack was made to look utterly impotent.

Literally from the off Munster put themselves on the back foot when Jean Kleyn failed to gather Ross Byrne’s kick-off and Murray was tackled into touch. Leinster launched Henshaw off the lineout and for Munster to only concede a three-pointer by Byrne from the ensuing attack was something of a result.

They were even more relieved when Rory O’Loughlin’s high pass went through Jordan Larmour’s hands after Stander and Kleyn’s mix up gave Leinster a scrum inside halfway, Kelleher then piercing the defensive line from Andrew Porter’s tip-on pass.

Leinster opted for the corner when John Ryan didn’t roll away before taking another three when Niall Scannell went off his feet. They were full value for it too.

Jack Conan emerges after scoring the only try of the match against Munster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Jack Conan emerges after scoring the only try of the match against Munster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Munster needed a lift, and Kleyn provided it with a big hit on Healy, who was very swiftly pinged for not releasing by Mike Adamson, enabling Carbery to open Munster’s account.

That was Munster’s cue to put together some phases off lineouts and Keith Earls was seeing plenty of ball in midfield traffic. But Leinster’s defence, with Josh van der Flier given licence to apply pressure by shooting off the line, was comfy. Chris Farrell overfloated a pass to Andrew Conway and Dave Kearney engineered another turnover after Mike Haley’s carry.

Leinster carried more threat and worked an apparent overlap but Byrne didn’t release soon enough and O’Loughlin’s long pass again eluded Larmour.

But a needless quick throw by Earls was fumbled by Haley, affording Leinster an attacking scrum. Henshaw powered through Carbery’s tackle and only Coombes’s shin prevented Fardy from grounding the ball in the opinion of Adamson, if not the Leinster players.

Unusually, Leinster gave Munster another lifeline when Van der Flier overran the ball to concede a penalty for crossing.

Van der Flier soon atoned with a typical square carry and offload to meet Hugo Keenan’s superb line, and he found Henshaw in support. Munster were indebted to Farrell’s tackle and then, on the back foot from the recycle in their own 22 for about the sixth time in the half, to Earls intercepting Van der Flier’s pass.

Murray even had the distance with a penalty from inside halfway but was wide, while Coombes – the only uncapped player on the pitch at kick-off – galvanised his team with a huge, leg-pumping gallop.

Carbery’s 40-metre penalty smacked off the upright but after earning another shot at goal with a carry when high tackled by Conan, the Munster outhalf drew the sides level with the last kick of the half.

On the resumption, Leinster reverted to their tried and tested formula. First they repelled the Munster carriers before Kleyn took his eye off Murray’s pass and knocked on. Andrew Porter got the nudge on James Cronin at the ensuing scrum, when Munster were pinged for wheeling and Leinster went up the line.

After launching Henshaw up the middle, the Leinster pack kept the ball to themselves with a procession of pick-and-jams in time-honoured fashion. Conan was held up a second time, but after driving off the ensuing scrum himself, the number eight eventually burrowed over and Byrne converted.

Carbery’s restart going out on the full didn’t help Munster’s cause and, after the loss of an injured Peter O’Mahony and a raft of frontrow replacements, Byrne missed the chance to put Leinster 10 points ahead not long after receiving treatment for a leg or knee injury, and soon after was replaced by Sexton.

Even when Munster began to finally generate some ferocity at the breakdown and with it some momentum, Ryan Baird – barely on for Fardy – had the temerity to rip the ball from Stander for the increasingly influential Ruddock to lead the counter charge.

Keith Earls is shackled during Munster’s Pro14 final defeat to Leinster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Keith Earls is shackled during Munster’s Pro14 final defeat to Leinster. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Kleyn did rip the ball from Ruddock and Munster knocked again, but Murray’s pass bounced off Kleyn’s face.

Byrne, still limping slightly, returned for a bloodied Sexton, and McGrath found a huge touch before Conan punished a miscued boxkick by Murray with a mighty charge. A penalty for offside followed and Byrne kicked Leinster two scores ahead.

The Leinster entourage, loud from the off, cheered heartily when Earls fumbled a long punt by McGrath. Munster looked a beaten docket, a thumping hit by Henshaw on Farrell and a kick out on the full by Craig Casey confirming as much.

Leinster forced Munster to play catch-up, before O’Loughlin claimed a chip from JJ Hanrahan and soon after Byrne kicked the ball dead with the clock in the red.

Michael Bent and Devin Toner lifted the trophy as Leinster became champions for an eighth time. They pass this honour around like confetti.

Scoring sequence: 4 mins Byrne pen 3-0; 12 mins Byrne pen 6-0; 14 mins Carbery pen 6-3; 40 (+ 1 min) Carbery pen 6-6; (half-time 6-6); 48 mins Conan try, Byrne con 13-6; 69 mins Byrne pen 16-6.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Rory O’Loughlin, Robbie Henshaw, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter; Devin Toner, Scott Fardy; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements: Ed Byrne for Healy, Tadhg Furlong for Porter (both 53 mins), Ryan Baird for Fardy, Johnny Sexton for Byrne (both 59 mins), Byrne for (62 mins), James Tracy for Kelleher (70 mins), Ross Molony for Ruddock (74 mins), Jamison Gibson-Park for McGrath (76 mins). Not used – James Lowe.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Gavin Coombes, Peter O’Mahony (capt), CJ Stander. Replacements: Jack O’Donoghue for O’Mahony (49 mins), Dave Kilcoyne for Cronin, Stephen Archer for Ryan (both 52 mins), Kevin O’Byrne for N Scannell (53 mins), Billy Holland for Kleyn, Craig Casey for Murray, JJ Hanrahan for Carbery (all 70 mins), Rory Scannell for de Allende (74 mins).

Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU).

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Leinster’s accuracy proves key as they see off Munster in demolition derby

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Leinster 35 Munster 25

A breathtaking and, it has to be said, physically punishing game, which ebbed and flowed from first to last, ended with Leinster getting more than they needed and Munster coming up short of their targets. Well, to a point.

Munster went into the last game requiring at least two match points for a home quarter-final and a bonus point for the additional carrot of a potential home semi-final.

In the end, they came up with zero, which was perhaps preferable in that it earned them an away quarter-final against Ulster rather than against the Bulls. Even so, the winners of that Irish derby in a fortnight will be away in the semi-finals against the Stormers or Edinburgh.

In the other half of the draw Leinster will host Glasgow in the quarter-finals, and the winners of that tie will have home advantage in the semi-finals.

The mix of requirements made for a thrilling game. Leinster were ultimately the more accurate and pacier side, epitomised by the jet-heeled Jordan Larmour, who made everyone else look like they were being towed and his counterattacking and running led to two of Leinster’s four tries. It was a timely reminder of his abilities, and might well earn him a place on the bench in the Champions Cup final against La Rochelle, who themselves welcomed back Will Skelton off the bench against Stade Francais on Saturday.

Munster’s game didn’t lack for ambition at all, and their similar mix featured classy performances by Thomas Ahern, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue and Conor Murray. But they weren’t as accurate or quite as pacey.

This hungry Leinster mix of young and experienced were not in a remotely charitable mood, and shot out of the traps. Harry Byrne’s perfect kick-off was reclaimed by the recalled Ryan Baird and inside 80 seconds Leinster had scored without Munster touching the ball.

Generating trademark quick ball, with Baird making one big carry and Scott Penny a couple, before Ciarán Frawley used an advantage to crosskick perfectly for Penny to gather and use his footwork to step Joey Carbery and finish in the corner.

Harry Byrne didn’t land the difficult conversion, but added a penalty before offloads by Kendellen and Ahern and a couple of nicely weighted grubbers to the edges by Murray and Carbery earned an attacking lineout. The first scrap followed too. Yep, derby on.

Attacking wide and through phases, Munster used an advantage when Carbery pulled the ball back as Keith Earls worked across from his wing and flung a peach of a left-hander for O’Donoghue to take Cormac Foley’s tackle and finish well in the corner.

Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin on his way to scoring a try despite Keynan Knox and Mike Haley of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Leinster’s Rory O’Loughlin on his way to scoring a try despite Keynan Knox and Mike Haley of Munster during the United Rugby Championship match at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Next, after Frawley’s spillage, the recalled Andrew Conway chased Murray’s perfectly weighted kick to prevent Larmour gathering, Niall Scannell’s gallop earning another attacking lineout.

Again Munster engineered another free play, and after a strong carry by Kendellen from Murray’s pass behind his back, Mike Haley was sharply on hand to pick up and dive over under the posts.

The force was with Munster, all the more so after Conway cleanly reclaimed another box kick by Murray. But when Kendellen kicked through Larmour beat the flanker’s follow-up tackle and left a trail of four more forwards in his wake before being tackled by Murray. From the recycle, Jamie Osborne stepped and Frawley took a superb line on to his short pass for a clean break and had Foley in support. The 22-year-old showed the quickness from his formative years as a centre with St Gerard’s to complete his first Leinster try on his home debut, and some try too.

The game’s first scrums provided an almost welcome breather. Frawley, after his two sumptuous try assists, had to depart for one of several failed HIAs in the game, and didn’t return.

The lively Earls then countered with Haley, Carbery and Kendellen before Rob Russell’s deliberate knock-on prevented the ball reaching three unmarked players and earning him a yellow card. But Baird spoiled the Munster lineout to protect his side’s 15-12 lead until the interval.

But on the resumption Munster struck. Haley chased his own kick, preventing Osborne from gathering cleanly and Murray was sharply on to the loose ball to skip away from Foley’s tackle and score.

Harry Byrne brought it back to a one-point game after Foley’s high tackle on Josh Murphy, and although Munster were clearly now mindful of the chance for a fourth try when going to the corner, before accepting a tap over penalty to push them four points ahead.

Typical of this match, back came Leinster. First Foley executed a 50:22 and despite just changing their frontrow the maul was gathering speed when it collapsed and Frank Murphy adjudged it a penalty try and sinbinned Niall Scannell.

After Max Deegan’s covering tackle on the ever dangerous Chris Farrell into touch, a lovely launch play and a flatish pass by Foley for Joe McCarthy’s carry over the gainline, was the prelude to Leinster reloading right and another slaloming run by Larmour. An offload by McCarty and fine pass by Deegan created the space for Rory O’Loughlin to use a two-on-two and a mismatch with the covering Kenyan Knox to score.

Suddenly it was 32-22 to Leinster.

A spellbinding spell of offloading featuring Murray, Ahern, O’Donoghue and Kendellen ended with Earls finishing off O’Donoghue’s offload, but Murphy adjudged it forward. Instead, Munster had to opt for another Carbery penalty to complete the first task of getting to within one score before chasing a fourth try.

They became over exuberant and conceded penalties, and although Adam Byrne was brilliantly denied by Carbery and Haley, Harry Byrne’s penalty put them 10 ahead, and more relevantly left Munster without anything from the game and looking at a quarter-final away to Ulster.

They had eight minutes or so to do it. They conjured one punishing phased attack, Carbery’s one-handed pick-up and Murray deliberately knocking on with a penalty advantage and then quickly were two of the highlights, but when Carbery prematurely went wide with a looped pass to Jack Daly he was tackled into touch by Osborne.

And that was effectively that.

SCORING SEQUENCE – 2 mins: Penny try 5-0; 9: Byrne pen 8-0; 12: O’Donoghue try 8-5; 17: Haley try, Carbery con 8-12; 23: Foley try, Byrne con 15-12; (half-time 15-12); 41: Murray try, Carbery con 15-19; 46: Byrne pen 18-19; 49: mins Carbery pen 18-22; 51: penalty try 25-22; 54: O’Loughlin try, Byrne con 32-22; 61: Carbery pen 32-25; 71: Byrne pen 35-25.

LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Rob Russell, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Rory O’Loughlin; Harry Byrne, Cormac Foley; Ed Byrne (capt), Seán Cronin, Thomas Clarkson; Joe McCarthy, Josh Murphy; Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.

Replacements: Adam Byrne for Frawley (27 mins), John McKee for Cronin, Peter Dooley for Byrne, Cian Healy for Clarkson (all 49), Devin Toner for J Murphy (55), Ben Murphy for Foley (58), Alex Soroka for McCarthy (66), David Hawkshaw for H Byrne (76).

Sinbinned: Russell (37-47 mins).

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Thomas Ahern; Fineen Wycherley, Alex Kendellen, Jack O’Donoghue (capt).

Replacements: Jason Jenkins for Kleyn (49 mins), Keynan Knox for Ryan (54), Jeremy Loughman for J Wycherley, Rory Scannell for Goggin (both 55), Diarmuid Barron for Kendellen (58-61), for Scannell (61), Jack Daly for Ahern, Ben Healy for Carbery (both 64), N Scannell for Kendellen (65), Ahern for Daly, Patrick Patterson for Murray (both 76).

Sinbinned: N Scannell (51-61 mins).

Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU).

URC quarter-finals (Fri, Jun 3rd & Sat, Jun 4th)
1 Leinster v Glasgow Warriors
2 DHL Stormers v Edinburgh
3 Ulster v Munster
4 Vodacom Bulls v Cell C Sharks
 
Semi-finals (Fri, June 10th and Sat Jun 11th)
Leinster or Glasgow v Bulls or Sharks
Stormers or Edinburgh v Ulster or Munster.
 
Shield winners 2021/22:
Irish Shield:
Leinster
South African Shield: DHL Stormers
Welsh Shield: Ospreys
Scottish & Italian Shield: Edinburgh
 

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Aparto debuts in Spain

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Aparto has unveiled its first student residence in Spain to open in September 2022. Aparto Barcelona Pallars, owned by Commerz Real, is located in the 22@, the city’s innovation district, and accommodates 743 beds covering 26,000m². The cutting-edge facilities at aparto Barcelona Pallars include an external circa 45-metre length infinity pool, a 900 square metre rooftop terrace, 2,500m² of gardens including the Butterfly Garden (named because of the type of plants that attract butterflies), the Smell Garden (due to the mixture of aromatic plants), 1,400m² of amenity space including a gym with a weight, cardio, and yoga studios, two cinema rooms, leisure areas, and a bar offering both food and drink services.

 

In addition, a central feature of aparto’s offering is its first-class experience with a focus on the arts including an initiative in which street artists will design some of the paintings on the building, and a mental health programme available to all students all year around, strengthened by aparto employees receiving mental health training to identify anyone who may need help. 

 

aparto Barcelona Pallars has been designed by the Catalonian architecture studio Battle i Roig, a pioneer in landscape architecture, interweaving structures with natural spaces like gardens. Upon construction completion, the building will receive the LEED Gold and WELL Platinum Certifications for sustainability. 

 

aparto offers students a unique safe study experience and flexible model offering medium and long-term stays, from a few months to a full year, with all-inclusive rates including cleaning, Wi-Fi connection, linen services, and some additional features related to sports and wellness sessions, cocktail and cooking classes, and a series of entertainment evenings including movie nights, sports matches and tournaments. Aparto’s focus is to create places where students feel at home living within a strong community.

  

Tom Rix, director of operations at aparto, UK, commented: “With Aparto Barcelona Pallars, Hines is introducing first-class student housing in Spain. Pallars mirrors what today’s students want in terms of facilities, amenities, community engagement, and wellbeing programmes. We have already successfully demonstrated that this innovative model is in high demand in Italy, Ireland, and the UK and we anticipate the same success here in Spain and can’t wait to welcome students to Barcelona.”

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Crossrail house price boom: Reading, Maidenhead and Slough set to become property hotspots

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Crossrail may be billions of pounds over budget and three-and-a-half years late but it’s finally ready to roll.

This extraordinary feat of engineering is due to be put into service on Tuesday, when it will adopt its correct title of the Elizabeth Line. 

The Queen made a surprise visit to Paddington station this week and officially opened the line.

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

On the line: The Thames flows through Maidenhead, which will now enjoy a direct link to Central London thanks to its new Crossrail station

Linking Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east with Heathrow and Reading to the west of the capital, it will bind together existing commuter railways, accelerating cross-city travel and relieving overcrowding on the London Underground — particularly the often hellish Central Line.

Commuters’ journey times will be slashed; Reading to London Liverpool Street, for example, will take under an hour.

When fully operational it will increase London’s rail capacity by 10 per cent, making it the largest single expansion of the city’s transport network in more than 70 years.

There are still a few glitches to be ironed out. Initially passengers travelling from Reading in the west to Abbey Wood and beyond will have to change at Paddington or Liverpool Street mainline stations. 

Also Bond Street is three months behind schedule. Trains will not call there until later in the year. Yet these delays pale into insignificance when you consider how the Elizabeth Line will transform rail travel in the capital.

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

Cross town: The Elizabeth line will run east to west across London, starting in Berkshire and ending in Essex

The new station at Paddington, for example, is the size of three Wembley football pitches, with natural light as far as the platform entry from a nearly 400ft-long glass canopy.

More than £1 billion has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks. Spacious tunnels will lead to airy 600 ft platforms, with glass screens at the edge of the tracks, making it impossible to fall under a train. 

Step-free access from street to train will make the service accessible to wheelchairs. 

The nine-car, air-conditioned trains will have colourful bench seats and open interiors with full-width walk-through connections between cars. It will be a world away from today’s cramped, cluttered carriages.

Few engineering projects change the way we live but The Elizabeth Line promises to do just that. People are already flocking to the new stations.

Research from Savills last year found that, over the past five years, homes within 0.6 mile of about half of the stations on the line have increased in price by 25 per cent or more.

It follows that when the sleek and airy new trains come into service, delivering people to their workplaces in double quick time, we can expect a migration to the west of London.

Here are the hotspots:

Reading revival

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Outlay: More than £1bn has been spent on upgrading 31 existing stations and tracks

Not so long ago Reading was best known for its brewery and its biscuit factory — not any more. 

International companies, including Amazon UK, Virgin Media and KPMG have moved there and with reasonably priced homes, compared to London, the town is already popular with commuters.

‘I recently dealt with a young woman who sold her 750 sq ft flat in London for £600,000 and bought a 1,750 ft duplex in Reading for £650,000,’ says James Hathaway, of Winkworth estate agents.

The town has lots of green space, riverside walks, the Grade II-listed Thames Lido and great shopping, notably in Broad Street and the Oracle centre. The average price of a home sold in Reading was £384,000 last year.

Compare that to the £512,000 average price in, say, East London and you will see why an exodus from the capital is forecast when the Elizabeth Line makes commuting a doddle.

Maidenhead marches on

This Berkshire town is keen to attract the City bankers who had previously been put off living there by having to trek across the capital’s underground system to get to work.

‘The Elizabeth Line changes all that and buyer enquiries have already started booming,’ says Dawn Carritt at Jackson-Stops estate agents.

‘The prospect of living near the river in Maidenhead or in nearby villages such as Sonning and Bray is appealing.’

Maidenhead (with Theresa May as its MP) is on the cusp of a revival. Its 1960s shopping centre is to be transformed into The Nicholson Quarter, a swish mixed-use centre.

The area by the river is being developed and trendy cocktail bars and restaurants such as Coppa Club are thriving — a sure sign of a town on the up.

Slough expansion

Ricky Gervais did Slough no favours when he set The Office there. Yet the town has a lot going for it. It is well located for travel, nestling between the M4 and the M40 and within easy reach of the M25 and Heathrow airport.

First-time buyer portal Share to Buy claims that Slough has been one of the UK’s top ten property hotspots over the past decade with a 73 per cent increase in house prices. 

The Berkeley Group is redeveloping the former Horlicks factory and site to create 1,300 homes.

A small flat sells for £150,000 and a three-bed terrace house for £350,000. The centre is being improved and with the coming of the Elizabeth Line, things can only get better.

On the market… the hotspots 

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