Leinster 24 Munster 9
Sean McMahon reporting from Thomond Park
Leinster bounced back from the disappointment of Newcastle as they produced a superb second-half performance to swat away the Munster challenge and secure a spot against Glasgow Warriors in the PRO14 final next weekend.
There was little between the teams in the opening 40 minutes as Leinster took a 9-6 lead into the changing rooms after Ross Byrne and Joey Carbery provided the points for their respective sides.
However, it was the opening quarter of the second half which proved crucial as Leinster scored 10 points which included a converted try by Sean Cronin which sealed the outcome of this game.
Leinster always looked more dangerous in attack and their powerful mauling and superior lineout proved too much for Munster to handle throughout the 80 minutes.
Munster’s attack will also be put under the spotlight as they failed to cross for a try and it will be interesting to see who the southern province obtain the services of in the summer.
Leinster began the game on the front foot when Jordan Larmour received possession when Conor Murray produced a rushed clearance when under pressure from James Lowe. The reigning champions went through numerous phases and utilised their big ball carriers until Munster gave away a penalty for a high tackle.
Leinster opted for the posts and Ross Byrne stepped up to the mark to give his side an early 3-0 lead.
A knock on from Leinster from the Munster kick off gave the southern province a scrum inside the Leinster half where Chris Farrell was launched off first phase to make a dominant carry.
The eastern province were penalised for not rolling away which gave Joey Carbery the opportunity to level the game with just five minutes played on the clock.
Munster continued to attack but they were undone by a superb turnover from Robbie Henshaw just metres from his own line. In a breathless opening quarter, it was then Leinster who came close to scoring a try. Garry Ringrose produced a superb break down the right flank where he was eventually brought down by Mike Haley.
The eastern province went through the phases until a poor pass to James Lowe took the momentum out of the move.
A Leinster lineout almost resulted in the opening try of the game but Josh van der Flier, on his return from injury, was put into touch just before he could dot down.
Munster dominated the next mini period of the game and a break from Tadhg Beirne after a superb pass from Conor Murray got the visitors deep into the opposition 22.
Leinster were then penalised when James Lowe knocked on the ball deliberately which resulted in a yellow card for the Kiwi winger. Carbery stepped up to take a shot at the posts and he was successful, giving his side a 3-6 lead.
Besides the three points which Carbery kicked as a result of Lowe giving away a penalty, Leinster kept their opponents scoreless during the 10 minutes they were down to 14 men. This was often due to some laboured attack from the men in red but the likes of van der Flier were also prominent in turning over the ball at crucial times.
Munster paid for that inaccuracy in their attack as Leinster soon won a penalty down the other end of the field which resulted in Byrne kicking his side level.
Just before halftime, Leinster stopped another attack with a superb turnover at the ruck and this allowed Leinster one last chance to register some points and they did so when Byrne kicked a penalty with the clock in the red to give the home side a 9-6 lead going into the break.
Munster got off to a poor start at the beginning of the second half when Sean Cronin made a scything line break to bring play deep into the Munster 22.
In an attempt to get back into the Munster defensive line, Niall Scannell got in the way of a Luke McGrath pass which saw him receive a yellow card and allow Byrne to kick three more points to give Leinster a 12-6 lead.
Munster did respond well when a superb kick from hand from Carbery pinned Leinster in their own half. Despite Munster conceding a penalty at the next lineout, they won the resulting lineout on Leinster’s throw.
A series of direct carries from the southern province eventually resulted in Leinster not rolling away which gave Carbery the chance to narrow the deficit to just three points.
However, Leinster did make the most of Munster being down to 14 men when they spotted a massive overlap on the right-hand side which saw Sean Cronin go over in the corner. Byrne kicked the extras to give Leinster a 19-9 with 25 minutes remaining.
Munster had a big opportunity with a quarter of the game remaining when a scrum penalty resulted in an attacking lineout about 15 metres from the Leinster line. However, the maul was stopped brilliantly by the home side and the southern province eventually knocked on after subsequent phases.
In the final minutes, it was Leinster who dominated possession and the game ended when Lowe crossed for his side’s second try to put a more deserving look to the final scoreline.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour, Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (O’Loughlin 32′ HIA Henshaw 39′), James Lowe, Ross Byrne (Sexton 57′), Luke McGrath, Cian Healy (E Byrne 62′), Sean Cronin (B Byrne 62′), Tadhg Furlong (Porter 62′), Devin Toner (Fardy 39′), James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (c), Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Scott Fardy, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Johnny Sexton, Rory O’Loughlin.
Munster: Mike Haley, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell (Goggin 67′), Keith Earls, Joey Carbery (Hanrahan 72′), Conor Murray (Mathewson 67′), Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan (Archer 57′) , Jean Kleyn (Wycherley 57′), Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (c), CJ Stander, Arno Botha (O’Donoghue 57′).
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Jack O’Donoghue, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin.