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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019
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Munster set up Pro14 semi-final with Leinster after squeezing past Edinburgh

The Irish provinces will meet at the RDS on Saturday 19 May.

Munster 20

Edinburgh 16

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

HOPES OF AN all-Ireland Champions Cup final evaporated two weekends ago in Bordeaux, but Munster and Leinster will meet in the semi-finals of the Guinness Pro14 after the southern province overcame Edinburgh to secure the inter-pro clash.

Johann van Graan’s men had a few scares along the way in their semi-final qualifier victory in front of an official attendance of 10,205 on a beautiful day in Limerick, but managed to squeeze home.

They will now take on Leinster at the RDS on Saturday 19 May in what promises to be an absorbing encounter.

Keith Earls celebrates scoring his sides second try with Simon Zebo Simon Zebo and Keith Earls combined for Munster's second try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

A moment of magic from Simon Zebo to create Keith Earls’ second-half try was pivotal against Edinburgh, with the Racing 92-bound fullback leaving Munster fans with another fine memory on what was his final appearance at Thomond Park before leaving.

JJ Hanrahan, picked ahead of Ian Keatley at 10, had several composed contributions and van Graan will have been encouraged in that regard ahead of the meeting with Leinster in two weekends’ time.

Leinster, of course, have the Champions Cup final against Racing in between now and then, and Munster will hope that the European decider saps energy from them before the Pro14 semi-final in Dublin.

The southern province will be aware that their performance will need to vastly improve, particularly after a sloppy first-half showing against a dangerous and fluid Edinburgh team.

The Scots dominated the possession and territory stakes, while breaking Munster tackles all too easily, but they struggled to find the finishing touches aside from a delightful second-half score from replacement scrum-half Nathan Fowles.

Great progress has been made under Richard Cockerill this season, but they will have to watch on as Munster and Leinster clash for a place in the Aviva Stadium-hosted Pro14 final.

Rhys Marshall scores his sides opening try Rhys Marshall scored a first-half try for Munster. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Van Graan’s men had the better start, with James Cronin winning a turnover penalty and then Hanrahan’s superb kick behind Edinburgh bouncing into touch deep in the visitors’ 22.

Hooker Stuart McInally overthrew the defensive lineout and his opposite number, Rhys Marshall gratefully gathered the ball before bashing through a couple of weak tackle attempts to score, with Hanrahan smartly converting for a 7-0 lead 10 minutes in.

Edinburgh’s dangerous South African wing Duhan van der Merwe soon delivered his first of several tackle busts, surging past Billy Holland before offloading to centre Mark Bennett.

Bennett was stopped five metres short by Conor Murray’s cover tackle and Edinburgh butchered the overlap wide on the right, Grant Gilchrist tucking the ball and carrying when Earls cleverly shot up on the edge of Munster’s defence.

The home side lost tighthead prop Stephen Archer to injury coming towards the quarter mark, with Ciaran Parker sent on for his third appearance of the season, and then loosehead Cronin gave up two kickable penalties in quick succession.

Sam Hidalgo-Clyne slotted both. Edinburgh number eight Bill Mata was making his presence felt, while van der Merwe and fullback Blair Kinghorn threatened out wide, but Cockerill’s side couldn’t manufacture a crucial try.

Duhan van der Merwe tackled by Jack O'Donoghue, Rory Scannell and Jean Kleyn Duhan van der Merwe was a threat for Edinburgh with ball in hand. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Hanrahan missed with a 40-metre penalty shot in the 28th minute – after Parker did well at scrum time – while Andrew Conway passed a HIA following an aerial collision with Kinghorn and despite more enterprising Edinburgh play, Munster led 7-6 at the break.

The Irish province’s start to the second half was strong, with Mata knocking the ball forward to give Munster a scrum, from where CJ Stander carried superbly before Murray bounced back to the left.

His pass was over Zebo’s head near the Edinburgh 10-metre line, with the Munster fullback spilling the ball backwards but turning rapidly to regather and then spring a moment of pure magic.

The departing fullback delicately chipped ahead with his left boot and gathered on the bounce, before producing a superb double skip pass wide to Earls on the left, the Ireland wing showing his searing pace to finish in the left corner, Hanrahan again converting.

The out-half was able to extend Munster’s lead out to 17-6 with a penalty shortly after as his side gathered momentum, Jaco van der Walt pinged for not moving away from the ball after his tackle on Marshall.

But Munster went off their feet at a defensive breakdown in the 55th minute to allow Hidalgo-Clyne to kick his third penalty just before he was replaced by Fowles.

And the new scrum-half didn’t take long to make a telling impact as he finished a wonderful Edinburgh try with the game moving towards the final quarter.

JJ Hanrahan kicks JJ Hanrahan had a good outing at 10. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Zebo’s poor grubber kick went directly to Mata in the Edinburgh 22 and the Fijian instantly countered, beating Murray before being grounded near halfway.

Good hands from Chris Dean and Gilchrist allowed Kinghorn to gallop up the left-hand side and although Hanrahan did well to scrag him in the tackle, Fowles was on scene to pick and snipe from 15m out, dragging the despairing Jack O’Donoghue over with him.

Out-half van der Walt took over the place-kicking duties and tacked on the conversion to draw Edinburgh to within a point at 17-16.

Replacement Robin Copeland – on for Stander – almost managed to free Murray from inside Munster’s out half only for the ball to go agonisingly to deck, but the replacement front row of Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry and Parker won an important scrum penalty immediately after.

The kick went to touch, Edinburgh infringed in the air at the lineout and Hanrahan had a penalty shot from around 40 metres out to give Munster some breathing room as the tension mounted in Thomond Park.

The Kerry man’s strike was pure and the nerves were eased just a little, although there was still time for one final fright until captain Peter O’Mahony stole the last lineout.

Munster scorers:

Tries: Rhys Marshall, Keith Earls

Conversions: JJ Hanrahan [2 from 2]

Penalties: JJ Hanrahan [ from 3]

Edinburgh scorers:

Tries: Nathan Fowles

Conversions: Jaco van der Walt [1 from 1]

Penalties: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne [3 from 3]

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway (HIA – Darren Sweetnam ’31 to ’40, permanent ’40), Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne ’61), Rhys Marshall (Mike Sherry ’70), Stephen Archer (Ciaran Parker ’17); Jean Kleyn (Gerbrandt Grobler ’52), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (Robin Copeland ’61).

Replacements not used: James Hart, Ian Keatley.

EDINBURGH: Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fife, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean (James Johnstone ’76), Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt (Duncan Weir ’64), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Nathan Fowles ’56); Jordan Lay (Allan Dell ’52), Stuart McInally (captain) (Neil Cochrane ’70), Simon Berghan (WP Nel ’52); Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist; Magnus Bradbury, Lewis Carmichael, Bill Mata (Cornell du Preez ’61).

Replacements not used: Ally Miller.

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].

Attendance: 10,205.

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Murray Kinsella

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