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Dublin: 10°C Friday 7 May 2021

Leinster set up Pro14 final with Glasgow as tryless Munster bow out in Dublin

Leo Cullen’s men were simply more clinical with ball in hand.

Leinster 24

Munster 9

Murray Kinsella reports from the RDS

LEINSTER TOOK THEIR chance, Munster failed to take theirs.

While the visitors to the RDS in this Guinness Pro14 semi-final only managed to draw 3-3 in the 10-minute period James Lowe was in the bin, Leinster won 10-3 in the second-half window that Munster hooker Niall Scannell was yellow carded for.

The try that proved to be the breaking of a theretofore tight game, dotted down by Leinster hooker Sean Cronin, was a beauty that underlined the difference in attacking class between the provinces.

Jordan Larmour and Tadhg Furlong celebrate Sean Cronin's try Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

There was slick handling from Garry Ringrose in midfield, some powerful carrying from Jack Conan and Dave Kearney, then superb passing from props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong to tee up Cronin. A superb team try. 

James Lowe put the icing on the cake in the very last minute of the game, Munster’s heads bowed at that stage, with a typically excellent finish in the left corner.

Munster’s attack, despite an equal share of possession, was extremely limited once again as they failed to create anything beyond their pre-planned three-phase patterns from scrums and lineouts. 

Sorting that major deficiency in their game is the key priority for head coach Johann van Graan after another season in which they have fallen at the semi-final stage in both competitions.

Leinster, meanwhile, put their European disappointment behind them to deliver a performance and win that means they will meet Glasgow Warriors in the Pro14 final in Celtic Park in Glasgow next weekend, Saturday 25 May.  

With Dave Rennie’s side having dismantled Ulster in impressive fashion in last night’s semi-final, the decider promises to be a thrilling contest. 

Sean Cronin scores a try despite Peter O'Mahony Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

There is a big injury worry for Leinster after influential lock Devin Toner was forced off in the first half with what looked like a serious knee injury. Ireland boss Joe Schmidt will be anxiously awaiting an update on that one too.

But overall, this was a happy outing for Leinster after the dejection of Newcastle a week ago.

With Johnny Sexton dropped to the bench for this semi-final, Ross Byrne stepped up at out-half to kick at 100% from the tee and leave Leinster in a winning position before he made way for the province’s captain

Josh van der Flier made a stunning return from groin injury – weeks earlier than expected – as he was deservedly named man of the match after a destructive performance, with number eight Jack Conan pushing him closest for the individual honour.

More misery for Munster, but Leinster get a shot at defending their Pro14 crown next weekend.

James Ryan and CJ Stander CJ Stander enjoys a Munster penalty. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Leinster were first off the mark as Byrne slotted a third-minute penalty after a high tackle from Munster, though Joey Carbery equalised soon after following the first of many strong Chris Farrell carries meant the home side couldn’t roll away. 

Munster’s scrum was in the ascendancy from early on but they failed to get return on a couple of visits into Leinster territory, Robbie Henshaw winning a turnover penalty before Conor Murray’s pass was intercepted by Jack Conan.

Garry Ringrose served a reminder of his quality with a searing linebreak out of the Leinster half, leading to fine handling by James Lowe releasing Rhys Ruddock to thunder up the left but Munster scrambled to survive. 

Leinster went close with a trick play at the lineout nearing the quarter mark, James Ryan returning a short throw to hooker Sean Cronin, who passed inside to Josh van der Flier but he was bundled into touch in-goal.

Munster responded well, as Murray’s wonderful pass sent Tadhg Beirne careering through the Leinster defence, only for James Lowe to prevent the visitors from taking advantage of a two-man overlap on the next phase by knocking-on.

Scottish referee Mike Adamson ruled it worthy of a yellow card and Lowe headed to the sin bin, as Carbery put Munster 6-3 in front with another well-struck penalty from right of the posts.

James Lowe receives a yellow card from Mike Adamson James Lowe was binned in the first half.

Lowe watched a scrappy 10 minutes from the sidelines, as Leinster’s defence muscled up strongly in his absence, van der Flier winning a turnover penalty just before Cullen’s men went into the Munster half and earned a penalty for Byrne to level the game just before Lowe returned.

Leinster lost Toner to that worrying knee injury as half-time approached and again delivered a breakdown turnover – Cian Healy this time – as Munster had a final attacking effort. 

With the clock in the red, the home side kicked down into Munster’s half and Jordan Larmour’s dancing feet earned them the penalty, Murray failing to roll away, that saw Byrne nudge them 9-6 in front at half time.

Munster had to deal with a yellow card only four minutes into the second half after a superb set-piece strike from Leinster sent hooker Cronin bursting through into their 22. On the next phase, the retreating Niall Scannell couldn’t get out of the way of Luke McGrath’s pass and was sent to the bin without hesitation.

That penalty also saw Byrne nudge Leinster 12-6 to the good but a characteristic lineout steal at the front from Munster captain O’Mahony gave them a chance to draw back to within three as Scott Fardy – on for Toner – then went off his feet at the defensive breakdown and Carbery popped over the penalty.

Arno Botha and Dave Kilcoyne with Garry Ringrose Garry Ringrose breaks for Leinster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But Leinster were able to take advantage of their extra man just before Scannell returned from the bin and they did so in stunning fashion. 

It was a sublime team try that broke the game in the 55th minute, as Ringrose’s superb hands allowed James Lowe to make ground up the left, before Conan and Dave Kearney punched onto carries close to the ruck to narrow up the Munster defence.

They shifted the ball wide right through Ringrose again and superb catch-pass skills from loosehead Cian Healy and tighthead Tadhg Furlong put the ball into Cronin’s hands to finish a beautiful sweeping move that Byrne converted for 19-9.

That was the out-half’s last act of the game as Johnny Sexton was sprung from the bench.

Sexton cut through the Munster defence with a dummy and break with his second touch of the game but Leinster couldn’t take advantage once they established themselves in Munster’s 22.

There was a scare for Leinster in the 64th minute as the lively Rory Scannell blocked a Ringrose grubber only for the bobbling ball to refuse to bounce up for him as the Munster centre knocked-on with home supporters’ hearts in their mouths.

Niall Scannell receives a yellow card from Mike Adamson Munster conceded a try while Niall Scannell was in the bin. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Munster were too loose again when they got another opportunity in Leinster territory, when they attempted to batter their way through but saw sub tighthead prop Stephen Archer spill the ball in contact. 

Another Munster attack just a minute later and another knock-on in the carry, Dave Kilcoyne losing the ball forward this time. 

The story of Munster’s season – their attack just couldn’t create as they bowed out with a tryless display in Dublin. 

The always energetic Lowe was able to put the icing on the cake in the very final minute of the game after replacement centre Rory O’Loughlin passed to him, the Kiwi wing bursting his way over in the left corner as he beat Haley and Farrell. 

Sexton couldn’t convert from the touchline but Leinster march on to Celtic Park.

Leinster scorers:

Tries: Sean Cronin, James Lowe

Conversions: Ross Byrne [1 from 1], Johnny Sexton [0 from 1]

Penalties: Ross Byrne [4 from 4]

Munster scorers:

Penalties: Joey Carbery [3 from 3]

LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw (HIA – Rory O’Loughlin ’32 to ’40, permanent ’80), James Lowe (yellow card ’25); Ross Byrne (Johnny Sexton ’56), Luke McGrath (Nick McCarthy ’71); Cian Healy (Ed Byrne ’62), Seán Cronin (Bryan Byrne ’62), Tadhg Furlong (Andrew Porter ’62); Devin Toner (Scott Fardy ’40), James Ryan; Rhys Ruddock (captain), Josh van der Flier (Max Deegan ’77), Jack Conan.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell (Dan Goggin ’68), Keith Earls; Joey Carbery (JJ Hanrahan ’72), Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson ’68); Dave Kilcoyne (Liam O’Connor ’70), Niall Scannell (yellow card ’44) (Kevin O’Byrne ’77), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’56); Jean Kleyn (Fineen Wycherley ’56), Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (captain), CJ Stander, Arno Botha (Jack O’Donoghue ’56).

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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