Munster 20-16 Edinburgh: Rhys Marshall and Keith Earls book PRO14 semi-final place
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 06/05/18 6:58pm
Tries from Rhys Marshall and Keith Earls, along with 10 points from the boot of JJ Hanrahan ensured Munster a place in the semi-finals of the PRO14 this season after a 20-16 win over Edinburgh at Thomond Park.
The boot of Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, plus a try from replacement scrum-half Nathan Fowles kept Edinburgh in the hunt the whole game but they could not force a second try to earn victory.
Richard Cockerill's side had enjoyed the better of the opening half but went in 7-6 behind, before a moment of magic from Simon Zebo - playing in his final game at Thomond Park - turned the game on its head.
Munster will now face Champions Cup finalists and Conference B winners Leinster in a semi-final tie at the RDS, live on Sky Sports Action, on Saturday May 19, while Edinburgh's season is now over.
Munster hit the front in the ninth minute through hooker Marshall when, after a superb tactical kick to the corner from Hanrahan, Stuart McInally's lineout was overthrown and his opposite number was at the back to claim it and race over past three Edinburgh men.
Five minutes later, Edinburgh should have been level after breaks in midfield from Duhan van der Merwe first and then Mark Bennett freed up a three-man overlap down the right wing which Keith Earls did remarkably well to stop by rushing up, saving a certain try.
The visitors were next to strike when Munster prop James Cronin kicked the ball out of scrum-half Hidalgo-Clyne's hands and the Edinburgh nine made him pay with the penalty.
Edinburgh got to within one point via the boot of Hidalgo-Clyne once more shortly after and it was Cronin again with the indiscretion after he won the ball back in the tackle without releasing.
Munster missed the chance to stretch their lead back out to four points near the half-hour mark when Hanrahan sent a penalty from 40 metres wide after replacement tighthead Ciaran Parker had earned the decision at the scrum from referee Nigel Owens.
Incredibly, Munster finished the first half with a massive 19 tackles missed and as the second-best team in most aspects by some distance, but still managed to get in 7-6 ahead.
The home side started the second half in a much sharper vain, however, and four minutes into the second period they racked up their second try of the day courtesy of Earls.
While Earls may have seared away down the left wing to finish in the corner, the try had much to do with the outgoing Simon Zebo who produced two fabulous pieces of skill to produce the score: first clipping over the Edinburgh backline and regathering brilliantly, before flinging out a fantastic right hand pass for Earls to dive over.
Hanrahan's touchline conversion gave Munster an eight-point lead, and after 51 minutes the fly-half's boot stretched the lead out further to 17-6.
Peter O'Mahony was pinged for going off his feet five minutes later and Hidalgo-Clyne once again struck for points before going off for Nathan Fowles, who was soon on the scoresheet himself for a critical try after Edinburgh counter-attacked superbly.
Out-half Jaco van der Walt's conversion made it a one-point game, bringing Edinburgh right back into it in double quick time.
With eight minutes left, Edinburgh transgressed at the lineout and Hanrahan struck a crucial penalty from 40 metres out, 15 metres in from touch to leave Edinburgh needing a late try.
Richard Cockerill's men couldn't force that final score, however, despite a prolonged spell of attack with the clock in the red, leaving Munster victorious in Limerick.
Simon Zebo speaks to Sky Sports following his emotional final appearance at Thomond Park...