MUNSTER took a giant step towards qualification for next season’s Champions Cup after securing a nervy 27-19 bonus point victory over Edinburgh in the Pro12 before a sell-out crowd at Thomond Park.
Munster looked well placed to score a comfortable victory when three first half tries from Rory Scannell Simon Zebo and Man of the Match Andrew Conway propelled the home side into a 20-13 half time lead.
However, Munster lost their way after the re-start as Edinburgh gained the upperhand and closed to within one point, 20-19, with 15 minutes remaining.
Munster were under severe pressure at scrum-time and the home side made life even more difficult for themselves by committing error after error as the pressure mounted.
However, the grandstand finish that Munster built their reputation on during a more successful period in the province’s history duly arrived in the 77th minute when centre Francis Saili powered over from close range following a 5-metre scrum.
Out-half Holland converted to deny Edinburgh even a losing bonus point.
The win moved Munster up to sixth in the table and into one of the Champions Cup qualification spots.
Munster’s final Pro12 regular season fixture is a clash with the Scarlets at Thomond Park on Saturday next, 3pm.
Munster made the perfect start when Rory Scannell touched down in the 9th minute collecting Andrew Conway’s pass after a rabidly intense start from the home side. Holland superbly converted from close to the touchline for a 7-0 lead.
However, Edinburgh, also fighting for their Champions Cup qualification, hit back when out-hald Tovey kicked a 14th minute penalty goal. 7-3.
And Edinburgh hit the front in the 19th minute when slack defence from Munster allow Tovey in to score. The out-half also converted to give the Scottish side a 10-7 lead.
The tit-for-tat nature of the scoring continued in the 24th minute when Holland kicked a fine penalty goal from the 10th minute line to tie up the scores, 10-10.
Munster were back in front in the 27th minute when a fine break from the recalled Conway and neat grubber kick, created the opening for Simon Zebo to touch down. 15-10 to the home side.
Provider Conway bagged Munster’s third try in the 34th minute to stretch the home side’s lead to 10 points, 20-10.
However, Edinburgh remained very much in touch at half-time as a second Tovey penalty left it 20-13 to Munster at half-time.
Edinburgh made the ideal start to the second half when Tovery landed his third penalty goal of the game in the 43rd minute.
The tension cranked up several notches in the 65th minute when replacement Sam Hidalgo Clyne reduced Munster’s lead with another penalty goal after the home side was penalised at scrum time.
Munster were hanging on now and seemed paralysed by fear as Edinburgh dominated the scrums.
Munster compounded their sense of frustration by commiting error after error in a poor second half.
However, the tension lifted among home supporters when Saili powered over from close range three minutes from time.
SCORERS: Munster: Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway, Francis Saili try each, Johnny Holland pen, two cons.
Edinburgh: Jason Tovey try, three pens, con, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne pen.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Johnny Holland, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer, Dave Foley, Billy Holland, Dave O'Callaghan, Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander (capt). Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, John Ryan, Robin Copeland, Jack O'Donoghue, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Ronan O'Mahony.
EDINBURGH: Blair Kinghorn; Damien Hoyland, Matt Scott, Andries Strauss, Tom Brown; Jason Tovey, Sean Kennedy; Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (capt), WP Nel, Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis, Jamie Ritchie, John Hardie, Cornell du Preez. Replacements: Stuart McInally, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Alex Toolis, Magnus Bradbury, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Chris Dean, Dougie Fife.
REFEREE: Ian Davies (Wales)