Leinster 16-15 Munster: Leinster hold on to reach PRO14 final
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 19/05/18 7:15pm
Leinster still have a domestic and European double in their sights after a 16-15 win over Munster in a pulsating Guinness PRO14 semi-final at the RDS.
Gerbrandt Grobler's late try set up a nerve-jangling final minute, but the Champions Cup winners prevailed to set up a rematch with Scarlets in next Saturday's final at the Aviva Stadium.
A seventh-minute try from Jack Conan was the difference between the sides at half-time, Leinster establishing a 10-3 lead with JJ Hanrahan and Ross Byrne exchanging penalties in front of an 18,930-strong crowd.
A momentum shifting try from Keith Earls, two minutes into the second half, took the heat out of Jean Kleyn's sin-binning, only for Byrne's second penalty and a 76th-minute penalty from Joey Carbery to prove just enough for the hosts.
Having missed out on the European decider, James Lowe quickly made his mark with two superb carries, twice leaving Simon Zebo in his wake, before the Kiwi winger's slick offload sent Conan over.
Carbery converted and the omens were not good for Munster, a knee injury forcing Jack O'Donoghue off and Jordan Larmour threatening on the right wing.
Fly-halves Hanrahan and Byrne swapped penalties, with CJ Stander and Rory Scannell increasing their influence for the visitors, who had Sam Arnold to thank for a terrific try-saving tackle on man-of-the-match Lowe.
Although Munster had Leo Cullen's men scrambling from a scrum penalty and Conor Murray's pacy break, Zebo blew an overlap opportunity and Hanrahan miscued his second shot at the posts in the 27th minute.
The abrasive visitors also left points behind when Stander was held up by James Ryan and Luke McGrath, and lock Kleyn's reckless clear-out on Byrne resulted in a yellow card.
Munster roared back after the restart, Earls expertly touching down near the left corner despite the presence of two defenders. Zebo cleverly set up the score, which had roots in replacement Robin Copeland's initial turnover.
Replacement Ian Keatley's missed conversion was followed by a Byrne three-pointer to make it 13-8. And by now, both packs were landing blows with Munster thwarting the hosts' maul and then Leinster winning a scrum penalty which Byrne pushed wide.
Carbery, who had closed off a dangerous kick chase from Zebo, did not have the distance to convert a 49-metre penalty attempt, while Munster turned down a kickable shot and Leinster disrupted the subsequent lineout.
Leinster's reserve front-row entered to change the dynamic of the contest. Replacement hooker James Tracy's efforts at the breakdown killed Munster's momentum and Andrew Porter delivered a crucial scrum penalty, which Carbery landed to make it 16-8.
Desperate to avoid a second semi-final defeat of the season, Munster came again and TMO Neil Paterson confirmed Grobler's try at the base of the right-hand post.
Keatley's conversion had the margin down to a single point, but Leinster replacement Max Deegan latched onto a ruck ball to force a final penalty and end Munster's breathless comeback bid.