MUNSTER stormed to a 12th European Cup semi-final, thanks to a convincing 41-16 quarter-final victory over Toulouse at a sold-out Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
A powerful finish, which yielded 17 unasnwered points, including late tries from winger Darren Sweetnam and replacement Andrew Conway, helped Munster earn a last four clash against either Saracens or Glasgow on thw weekend of April 22-23.
Munster have now won eight of their nine home quarter-finals in the European Cup and will be appearing in their first semi-final in the competition for three seasons later this month.
Incidentally, Munster also beat Toulouse in Limerick at the last eight stage of that season’s European Cup, before exiting at the hands of Toulon in Marseilles.
Munster scored four tries in all, with Man of the Match John Ryan and CJ Stander also touching down. The home side had led 13-9 at half-time.
The home side had also to cope with the loss of Conor Murray before kick-off as the scrum-half failed a fitness test for a shoulder injury. The two-time European Cup winners also lost captain Peter O’Mahony, wingeer Keith Earls and number eight Stander to injury during the course of the game.
Munster made the best possible start when prop John Ryan barged over the tryline from close range in the fourth minute after Toulouse number eight Francois Cros had been sin-binned for an earlier late hit on Duncan Williams.
Bleyendaal converted Ryan’s try and added a tenth minute penalty goal to help the home side build a significant 10-0 advantage.
However, a 19th minute penalty goal from Jean Marc Doussain reduced Munster’s lead to seven points before Bleyendaal made it a double figure advantage with his second penalty.
However, Dousaain’s third successful kick of the evening reduced Munster’s lead to 13-9 at half-time.
New Zealand out-half Tyler Bleyendaal had home supporters breathing a little more easy within two minutes of the restart when he landed a monster penalty, albeit wind-assisted, from the half-way line for 16-9.
Munster took a firm grip on the game in the 48th minute, when fortune favoured their brave as the home side opted to kick to touch off an easy penalty.
Munster used their maul to make good yardage, before CJ Stander touched down from close range.
A fourth penalty goal from Bleyendaal helped Munster into a gaping 24-9 lead. However, unlike 2014, Toulouse were not about to role over easily here.
Winger Paul Perez struck for a 55th minute try, despite the home crwod baying for a forward pass in the lead-up to it, while Doussain added a superb conversion from close to the touchline. 24-16 now.
Munster were also dealing with a heavy injury count as Earls, O’Mahony and Stander were forced off with knocks. Toulouse sniffed an opportunity and upped the intensity levels.
However, sensing the game was still in the melting pot, Munster produced a storming finish with late tries from winger Darren Sweetnam and replacement Andrew Conway sealing what turned out to be a desered if somewhat flattering win.
SCORERS: Munster: John Ryan, CJ Stander, Darren Sweetnam, Andrew Conway try each, Tyler Bleyendaal five pens, three cons. Toulouse: Paul Perez try, Jean-Marc Doussain pen, pen, pen, con
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (capt), Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander. Replacements: Dabe O’Callaghan for O’Mahony (49 mins), Andrew Conway for Earls (56 mins), James Cronin for Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall for Niall Scannell (both 58 mins), Jack O’Donoghue for Stander (66 mins).
TOULOUSE: Maxime Médard; Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Gael Fickou, Paul Perez; Jean-Marc Doussain, Sébastien Bézy; Cyril Baille, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Census Johnston, Joe Tekori, Yoann Maestri, Thierry Dusautoir (capt), Yacouba Camara, Francois Cros. Replacements: Julien Marchand, Gurthro Steenkamp, Dorian Aldegheri, Talalelei Gray, Piula Faasalele, Samuel Marques, Luke McAlister, Arthur Bonneval.
REFEREE: JP Doyle (England)