Munster hammered as Leinster grab final berth at the RDS
LEINSTER are heading to Paradise – after seeing off Munster at the RDS.
The reigning Guinness Pro14 champs have the chance to retain their title against Glasgow next week in Celtic Park, following this relatively comfortable interprovincial victory.
Much was expected from this semi-final with Munster desperate to end their eight year trophy drought, but the hosts simply had too much and pulled away with two second half tries after a tight opening half.
The first 40 minutes were high on energy but low on scores, as Leinster went into the break leading by just three points.
With no Johnny Sexton on the pitch for the hosts, Ross Byrne was the man who was key from the tee for the home side, while former RDS favourite Joey Carbery kicked the two penalties won by the visitors.
The half was not short of half chances, but neither side had quite enough to finish them off – with both defences doing well when forced into their own 22.
Byrne and Carbery swapped penalties inside the opening six minutes after plenty of niggle around the pitch – with Rhys Ruddock shoved around by three Munster forwards after an early coming together.
CJ Stander, playing openside for the visitors, was enjoying the physical side, with Chris Farrell a constant threat in their midfield, while Jordan Larmour and Jack Conan were carrying well for the hosts.
Garry Ringrose made the stand out break of the first half, but Munster full back Mike Haley recovered to chop him down at the ankles, and when Seán Cronin and James Ryan teamed up for a clever 1-2 at the front of a lineout, Jean Kleyn did well to spot the offload to Josh van der Flier, and bundle the Leinster flanker into touch.
Lowe was sent to the bin after 24 minutes for an intentional knock on, and Carbery slotted home from the tee seconds later – but Leinster would not struggle with the Kiwi in the bin.
Despite being down to 14 men, Byrne’s penalty seconds before Lowe returned ensured they lost no ground in the ten minute period.
Scott Fardy replaced Devin Toner on the stroke of half time, the second row hobbling off with a knee injury, but there was a positive finish to the half for the hosts when Byrne kicked his third penalty to edge Leinster into the lead.
Munster coughed up a ninth penalty just three minutes after the restart, with Byrne punishing them once more, and doubling their lead – with Niall Scannell sent to the bin for his infringement.
The sides were level during Scannell’s 10 minutes in the bin, but just one minute after his return Cronin finished off a cracking move that saw all three front rowers touch the ball, his 13th try of the season.
With two minutes to go, Leinster ended any slim hopes of a Munster comeback, with Lowe touching down in the corner.
The Kiwi had been enjoying some verbals with Andrew Conway just moments earlier, and had the last laugh as he shoved off Haley and Farrell to celebrate with the home fans.
HOOPY IN THEIR WORK Leinster celebrate beating Munster which secured a final spot at Celtic Park CRO FLIES Sean Cronin goes over for Leinster in Munster win yesterday