Munster booked a semi-final date with Leinster in two weeks time after a nail-biting 20-16 victory over Edinburgh at Thomond Park this afternoon.
It was far from a perfect performance from Johann van Graan’s side but tries in each half from Rhys Marshall and Keith Earls were enough to see Munster progress to the final four of this competition.
It was a moment of magic in the second half from Simon Zebo in the second half which got Munster their second try and essentially won them the game in what was a fitting way to end his last appearance at Thomond Park for the men in red.
Basked in the Thomond Park sunshine, Munster got off to a fast start as Conor Murray immediately began to test the Edinburgh backfield with some teasing garryowens. In the opening minutes, it was the home side who did all the running and they eventually got their reward for some positive play.
With just nine minutes on the clock, Munster got the first try of the game as Edinburgh overthrew a defensive lineout in their own 22. It was Rhys Marshall who reacted quickest as he collected the ball and with help from his teammates who were also quick to react, he was shoved over the line to give Munster a 7-0 lead after JJ Hanrahan converted.
However, that was as good as it got in the first half as Munster gave up a massive amount of possession and territory to let their visitors back into the game.
A loose kick from Hanrahan allowed Duhan van der Merwe to make a scything break in midfield. Edinburgh butchered a clear overlap before knocking on to let Munster off the hook which was a feature of this first half showing.
Munster suffered a blow early on when Stephen Archer had to be replaced by the young Ciaran Parker. The Stockport native was immediately called into duty soon after and won a penalty to alleviate any fears of a lack of experience.
The visitors, as expected, brought a direct style of play to proceedings and it was successful as the 70% territory and possession statistics showed for Richard Cockerill’s side.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne got the first points for Edinburgh as some indiscipline from James Cronin gave the visitors three points after 19 minutes on the clock.
Six minutes later, Hidalgo-Clyne booted over another three points to cancel out any early optimism from the Munster faithful.
One of Murray’s testing high balls was fielded by Andrew Conway who took a heavy knock in the process but thankfully he successfully completed his HIA and took his place on the pitch after Darren Sweetnam had replaced him.
The rest of the first half played out which errors from both sides which led to a rather drab showing for the crowd in attendance.
Munster didn’t have to wait long to get the second try of the game and there was a bitter-sweet feel to it as it was all about Simon Zebo who produced some wonderful skill. The Racing 92 bound star chipped the ball over the Edinburgh defensive line. He collected superbly before firing out a wonderful pass to Keith Earls who finished in the corner. Hanrahan was successful with the conversion as Munster stretched the lead to 14-6 after 43 minutes.
Munster extended their advantage seven minutes later as the away side went offside which allowed Hanrahan to slot an easy penalty in front of the posts. Moments before that, Munster stretched Edinburgh which got the crowd off their feet as Johann van Graan’s men finally began to turn the screw.
However, just as Munster thought they had the measure of their opponents Hidalgo-Clyne slotted another three points before Nathan Fowles capitalised on a backtracking Munster defence to scoot over from about 20 metres as he did excellently to pick and go from the base of a ruck. With less than 20 minutes remaining, it was a one-point game.
Munster were pinged in their own half soon after but thankfully for the 10,250 in attendance, they soon made their way up the pitch and Hanrahan stretched the narrow lead to four points after slotting an excellent penalty.
With the clock gone red, Edinburgh had a lineout in Munster’s 22 but it was captain Peter O’Mahony who stole the ball and allowed Munster to end the game. They now look forward to a clash with bitter rivals Leinster in two weeks time.
Munster: Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway (Sweetnam 41′), Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray, James Cronin (Kilcoyne 60′), Rhys Marshall (Sherry 70′), Stephen Archer (Parker 17′), Jean Kleyn (Grobler 52′), Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (Copeland 60′).
Edinburgh: Blair Kinghorn, Dougie Fife, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean (Johnstone 76′), Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt (Weir 63′), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Fowles 55′), Jordan Lay, Stuart McInally (Cochrane 71′), Simon Berghan, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Lewis Carmichael, Magnus Bradbury, Bill Mata (Du Preez 62′).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wal)