By Simon Lewis
Munster 50 Connacht 14
Key moment: Rarely in recent memory has an interprovincial derby been as one-sided as this with Munster dominating from the start against a sloppy and often directionless Connacht side.
Talking point: Connacht head coach Pat Lam was looking to steady the ship following a home loss to Scarlets and ahead of a European qualification play-off but this was far from what he will have been looking for as Munster punished the numerous errors from the visitors and turned this fixture into a training run with a seven-try hammering.
Key man: Ian Keatley made a rare start at fly-half ahead of Munster player of the season Tyler Bleyendaal and turned in a man of the match performance with some great tactical and goal kicking, missing just one of seven kicks and that a touchline conversion of his side's seventh and final try.
Ref watch: David Wilkinson had few moments of controversy to deal with, save for a couple of high tackles during an incident free encounter in terms of discipline. His only occupation seemed to be blowing for scrums as Connacht turned over plenty of cheap ball.
Injuries: Conor Murray's long-awaited return from a shoulder injury sustained on March 10 was a big boost for a Munster side ahead of the semi-finals but the flip side was wing Alex Wootton's second-half exit while there were head injury assessments for Connacht prop Finlay Bealham and their replacement fly-half Marnitz Boshoff whose clash of heads with Dan Goggin forced the Munster centre off as well.
Next up: That's the end of the regular season in the Guinness Pro12 and Munster now start preparations for a home semi-final against Scarlets at Thomond Park on May 20. The race is run for 2015-16 champions Connacht but they still have a chance of qualifying for next season's Champions Cup and on the same weekend face a play-off at Northampton Saints.
Full match report
Conor Murray gave the Lions a fitness boost with a second-half appearance in Munster's thunderous 50-14 Guinness PRO12 win over Connacht at Thomond Park.
Murray came on in the 52nd minute for his first run-out since suffering a shoulder injury on Six Nations duty against Wales on March 10. He could have two more games in Munster red before departing for New Zealand, with Rassie Erasmus' men hosting the Ospreys in a May 20 semi-final in Limerick.
Munster pipped Leinster to top spot in the PRO12 table, running Connacht ragged at times with fly-half Ian Keatley, who kicked 15 points, putting in another man-of-the-match performance against his former side.
Keith Earls, Jack O'Donogue and Andrew Conway all crossed for tries as dominant Munster built a 24-0 half-time lead, their bonus point arriving in the 42nd minute courtesy of prop James Cronin.
Connacht, who will travel to either Northampton Saints or Gloucester in the Champions Cup qualification play-offs, were more competitive in the second half. Cian Kelleher and Naulia Dawai touched down either side of Conway's second score, but Munster cruised to the half-century with further tries from Francis Saili and Conor Oliver.
Tom Farrell's slick break was an early highlight for the eighth-placed visitors, but they fell behind in the seventh minute when Keatley's delayed pass sent Dan Goggin through a gap and he fed Earls to go in behind the posts.
A forward pass from Cronin denied Earls a possible second try on the quarter-hour mark, the chance coming just a few minutes after Danie Poolman had fumbled Jack Carty's cross-field kick in a rare try-scoring situation for Connacht.
Keatley knocked over a penalty in the 24th minute, rewarding Cronin and Jean Deysel for their breakdown work, and the ex-Connacht playmaker was also prominent in the build-up to O'Donoghue's try, the number eight crossing wide on the left via quick passes from Cronin and Conway.
Keatley added the extras in impressive fashion and it was his initial long pass and support play, allied to an excellent Alex Wootton offload, which was pivotal to full-back Conway's well-finished effort eight minutes before the break.
Too many Connacht attacks were breaking down deep in their own half and within minutes of the restart, they allowed Wootton to slip through a series of tackles and Cronin duly crashed over for his close-range try.
Keatley's fine kicking display continued - he had a seven-out-of-eight return - but Connacht, in the final PRO12 game of Pat Lam's coaching tenure, rallied with winger Kelleher's well-taken 51st-minute try from a Carty cross-field kick.
However, the westerners blundered from the restart, immediately coughing up possession and Jaco Taute's short pass saw Conway complete his brace.
Craig Ronaldson landed a second successful conversion from Fijian replacement Dawai's 64th-minute try, which saw him peel off a lineout maul. Nonetheless, another turnover close to their posts saw Saili punish Connacht with try number six and flanker Oliver, profiting from Murray and Conway's sharp passing, added the seventh with only seconds remaining.