Munster were left to rue their poor discipline after succumbing to another Guinness PRO14 semi-final defeat at the hands of Leinster today.
Defending champions Leinster brushed their southern neighbours aside in a 24-9 victory at a sold-out RDS to set up a final at Celtic Park next Saturday against hometown club Glasgow Warriors thanks to second-half tries from Sean Cronin and James Lowe after a tight first-half contest had given them a narrow 9-6 lead.
While Leinster rode out the yellow card they conceded in the opening period when James Lowe was sin-binned in the 24th minute for a deliberate knock-on but Munster paid a heavy price for the yellow card to hooker Niall Scannell which turned the game early in the second half for deliberate offside.
Scannell had been slow to retreat to an onside position and was tagged with a pass from Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath, leaving referee Mike Adamson with little choice but to issue the card. During Scannell’s 10 minutes in the bin, his opposite number and Ireland rival Sean Cronin scored the opening try, converted by Ross Byrne, that opened up a 10-point lead at 19-9 after 54 minutes, with James Lowe adding the icing on the cake with a try in the corner in the last minute.
Asked for the key difference between the two sides, Munster head coach Johann van Graan had no hesitation in saying: "Discipline. They started off in the first two minutes with a penalty. We were straight back to 3-3. I thought we played some really good rugby in the first half. They got that penalty on the stroke of half-time to give them a three-point lead.
Munster captain Peter O’Mahony echoed his head coach, adding: “You can't come to somewhere like Leinster and concede 13 penalties, a lot of them in crucial moments as well, either kickable or we had them under pressure in their 22 and a big release-valve.
“We were playing some great rugby as well. They certainly played well as well, I'm not taking away from that. Their ability to keep the ball going forward, certainly for some of those penalties, we were under pressure, on the back foot, but some of them were silly as well. We don't have any arguments.”
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen credited his players’ resilience following their Champions Cup final defeat to Saracens in Newcastle seven days earlier and was grateful for the penalties, particularly the ones either side of half-time which helped to turn the game in his side’s favour.
“It was nice that we got a penalty just before half-time which gets us into the lead,” Cullen said. “It was the flip side of the week before where we didn’t manage that period particularly well.
“I thought the intent was good in the second half, we created some good opportunities, the line break from Sean Cronin that leads to (Niall) Scannell getting sin-binned is an important moment.
“Then the front row do incredibly well the way they interlinked, one to three to two to score, which is always good. I thought we held our shape pretty well defensively.
“Munster had one passage of play in our 22 where we managed to shut them out; Scott Fardy comes up with a good turnover in the corner. After that a little bit of gloss on the scoreline in the end. We are pleased. It was far from a perfect performance but the lads got the job done.