LEINSTER 16 MUNSTER 8
Simon Lewis, RDS Arena, Dublin
Key moment: With the game on a knife-edge at 13-8 to Leinster, Munster pushed and pushed for the try that would send this contest to the wire but for all their pressure as they piled into the home 22 with 10 minutes remaining, it was Leinster’s composure under pressure that sealed the deal, replacement hooker James Tracy clamping onto the ball in his side’s left corner and earning the penalty that relieved the pressure. Munster would eventually score a second try two minutes from time but it was too little too late to affect the outcome.
Talking point: Another second semi-final defeat in four weeks and once again Munster only had themselves to blame. Against Racing in the Champions Cup a sluggish start had them chasing a 21-0 lead after just 25 minutes but at the RDS on Saturday, their Guinness PRO14 hopes were dashed by sloppy execution in all manner of ways. Forward passes were numerous, kicking was poor and decision-making was ill-judged. As Leinster stayed calm and composed it pointed to a decisive and telling skill deficit in the Munster ranks compared to their neighbours in blue.
Key man: In a ding-dong head to head contest with Munster’s Andrew Conway, James Lowe just about edged home and he took the man of the match honours in part for a sublime offload that handed the opening try to Jack Conan. Superb defending Conor Murray’s box kicks, it was an excellent all-round wing performance from the Kiwi.
Ref watch: Stuart Berry became the first South African referee to take charge of a PRO14 play-off game and he kept the game flowing with a generous use of the advantage which made for a gripping contest. Berry had little choice but to issue a yellow card to Munster lock Jean Kleyn after a reckless cleanout of Leinster fly-half Ross Byrne at a ruck as the visitors bore down on the home tryline. Kleyn had wrapped his arms but heads clashed as he torpedoed in to leave Byrne needing a Head Injury Assessment.
Penalties conceded: Leinster 6 + 1 f-k; Munster 14
Injuries: Munster were dealt an early blow when Jack O’Donoghue suffered a bad-looking knee injury as he hauled down Jack Ryan, the third Munster openside flanker to be struck by an apparently serious injury. Leinster lost fly-half Ross Byrne to an HIA just before half-time although he returned to start the second half. The interval marked the end of both Isa Nacewa and JJ Hanrahan’s involvements. Leinster captain Nacewa had been a major doubt to start after his Champions Cup final heroics and with his right leg heavily strapped he did well to complete 40 minutes. Hanrahan took a heavy bang early in the game and never shook it off.
Next up: The season may be over for Munster, Simon Zebo can pack for France and a new life in Paris for Racing 92 but Leinster have progressed to the Guinness PRO14 final back in Dublin at the Aviva Stadium next Saturday, May 26 and a chance to score a first league and European double. Standing in their way will be defending champions Scarlets, who repeated their history-making feat of becoming the first team to win an away semi-final 12 months ago over Leinster at the RDS inflicting a similar fate on Glasgow at Scotstoun on Friday night. Wayne Pivac’s side has fond memories of the Aviva having gone on to take the final PRO12 crown at Munster’s expense last May.