BLUE AWAY

Mun­ster ham­mered as Le­in­ster grab fi­nal berth at the RDS

Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Sports - By CIARAN O RAGHALLAIG­H @Ciaran_O

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

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