Munster semi-final hoodoo strikes again as Leinster power into PRO 14 final

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent at the RDS, Dublin


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent at the RDS, Dublin

Munster semi-final hoodoo strikes again as Leinster power into PRO 14 final

Leinster's Limerick-born hooker Sean Cronin scores his side's first try in their Guinness PRO14 semi-final win over Munster at the RDS on Saturday

MUNSTER'S semi-final hoodoo against Leinster struck again at the RDS as Leo Cullen's side recorded their four successive win in all competitions over their Irish rivals when securing a deserved 24-9 victory in their Guinness PRO14 last four clash on Saturday.

Hot on the heels of their Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat to Saracens last month, Munster came unstuck once more as a second half try from Limerick-born hooker Sean Cronin helped the Guinness PRO14 holders advance to a final showdown with Glasgow Warriors next weekend.

It is now eight years since Munster claimed a trophy, a Celtic League success, and on the evidence of this defeat against opponents who had been involved in a pulsating, energy-sapping Champions Cup final just a week earlier, Johann van Graan's side has some way to go to close to the gap to the top sides.

It was a disappointing way for the tenures of Munster assistant coaches Jerry Flanney and Felix Jones to end. Both men have made massive contributions to the province both as players and in the backroom team.

Munster are in the market for three assistant coaches this summer and the province is under real pressure to ensure their make smart appointments.

Munster have won just one of their last seven visits to the RDS. The run of losses includes three semi-final losses in 2010,  2018 and 2019, but their only victory there was 18-nil in September 2008

In contrast, Leinster, who have appeared in nine Guinness PRO14 semi-finals in the last ten years all at the RDS, have won all of them.

Leinster signalled their intent from the start and hit the front with a third minute penalty goal from the boot of Ross Byrne.

However, Munster responded impressively straight from the re-start, earning a penalty of their own, with the fit-again Joey Carbery kicking the sides level, 3-3, after six minutes.

The breathless action continued as the half wore in a high octane derby fixture. Leinster were reduced to 14 players in the 25th minute when James Lowe was sin-binned for deliberately swatting the ball away as Munster attacked down the right.

Carbery made the winger pay for his infrigement as his second penalty of the game helped the visitors into a 6-3 lead. 

The advantage lasted until the 34th minute when Byrne tied up the scores, 6-6, with his second penalty of the game.

Leinster lost their influential Ireland international second-row Devin Toner to an unfortunate knee injury shortly before half-time.

With the clock well in the red, Byrne kicked his third penalty of the half to leave the home side 9-6 to the good at the change of ends. That opening period took 50 minutes in all to play. 

Munster edged both possession and territory during that opening half, 54% and 56% respectively. However, they struggled to convert it into more than half a dozen points due to such tenacious defending from their hosts.

And Munster's discipline could have been better too as Johann van Graam's charges racked up seven penalties during that opening half.

The quick start Munster needed to make to the second half never materialised with hooker Niall Scannell being sin-binned in the 44th minute 

Byrne's penalty made it 12-6 to the home side.

To their credit, Munster hit back and Carbery's third penalty of the goal reduced Leinster's advantage to just three points, 9-12.

However, Munster were dealt a huge blow soon after when Leinster's Limerick-born hooker Sean Cronin dotted down, the last three players to handle the ball in the move were front row forwards.

Byrne's conversion made it a 10-point game with Leinster leading 19-9 at the end of the third quarter. 

The home side, 1/3 favourites with the bookmakers before kick-off, put the final nail in Munster's coffin when winger James Lowe touched down in thee left corner at the death.

It was a sorry end to the season which had promised more for Munster.

SCORERS: Leinster: Sean Cronin, James Lowe try each, Ross Byrne four pens, con. Munster: Joey Carbery pen, pen, pen

LEINSTER: Jordan Larmour; Dave Kearney, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan. Replacements: Rory O'Loughlin for Henshaw (HIA 32-39 and 72 mins), Scott Fady for Toner (injured, 39 mins), Johnny Sexton for Byrne (57 mins), Bryan Byrne for Niall Scannell, Ed Byrne for Healy, Andrew Porter for Furlong (all 62 mins), Nick McCarthy for McGrath (70 mins), Max Deegan for van der Flier (76 mins).

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O'Mahony (capt), CJ Stander, Arno Botha. Replacements: Jack O'Donoghue for Botha, Stephen Archer for Ryan, Fineen Wcherley for Jean Kleyn (all 57 mins), Alby Mathewson for Murray, Dan Goggin for Rory Scannell (both 67 mins), Liam O'Connor for Kilcoyne (70 mins), JJ Hanrahan for Carbery (71 mins), Kevin O'Byrne for Niall Scannell (77mins).

REFEREE: Mike Adamson (Scotland)