Leinster ended Munster’s hopes of Pro14 silverware for the second year running with a deserved 24-9 victory at the RDS this afternoon with little argument that Leo Cullen’s side were deserving of their spot in the final.
For their part Munster were dogged by some old failings as they struggled to come up with a blueprint to crack the Leinster defence on their forays to the 22.
The opening minutes saw Leinster dominate the ball and possession forcing Munster into a breakdown penalty which Ross Byrne converted from the 10 metre line dead in front.
Munster responded minutes later when Leinster knocked on the restart. A good period of phase play yielded a penalty and Joey Carbery stepped up to level proceedings.
The next ten minutes saw Leinster exert some major pressure on the Munster 22 but the visitors held firm to keep their try line intact. Another good spell of play for Johann van Graan’s side saw them create a nice 3 on 1 overlap but James Lowe put a stop to the move with a knock down that saw him sent to the bin for ten minutes.
Munster went on the attack once more but Leinster were making them work exceptionally hard at the breakdown to retain the ball. Chris Farrell got isolated and the Leinster poacher forced the penalty for holding on.
Leinster cleared to the Munster 22, won the line out and a series of carries saw Munster creep offside. Ross Byrne made no mistake with a relatively straightforward attempt to make it 6-6.
Another good spell of Munster pressure ensued but it came to nothing as some hesitancy around the midfield channel nullified the attack. Leinster would get one more chance to add points when Munster were pinged for a silly hands in the ruck penalty.
Byrne made no mistake to make it 9-6 to the visitors heading in at the break.
Leinster came out of the blocks much the faster of the two sides for the second half and a missed tackle from Niall Scannell on his opposite number saw Cronin power through the gap.
Scannell then compounded the error by not getting back onside in time and was sent to the bin for his sins. Byrne made it 12-6 from the resultant penalty.
By this stage Munster were 9-4 ahead on the penalty count and one feared that their inability to adapt at the breakdown was becoming increasingly costly. They needed the next score and it would come from the boot of Carbery once more as Leinster infringed at the breakdown dead in front of the posts. 12-9 and still very much in the game.
Despite being an extremely competitive arm wrestle, the game never really ignited. That was until the 54th minute when Munster were caught extremely narrow in defence. Leinster had huge numbers the right wing and made it count with Sean Cronin crashing over. Byrne converted and Leinster now held a ten point lead and had control of the game.
Enter Johnny Sexton as Leinster looked to kill off the game and his impact was immediate as he cut through the Munster defensive line. A pass to either side would have surely ended Munster’s hopes but somehow Johann van Graan’s side survived.
A good attacking platform once more came to nothing for Munster as it followed an all too familiar and frustrating pattern. Ball carrier running into Leinster tacklers, eventually running out of numbers and getting turned over without asking questions of the Leinster defence.
Leo Cullen’s side were superior in every area of the park and compounded Munster’s misery with a James Lowe try the last minute to make it 24-9.
The defeat brings Munster’s season to a close but begins what is one of the most important off seasons the province faces in some time. New coaches will be recruited and with only one try to show for their last three competitive knockout games the remit will be clear.