Munster’s quarter-final opponents could have been Glasgow, but when Edinburgh finally failed to pick up a bonus point they were left facing another trip to Limerick.
Munster will obviously start favourites, but if they make life as difficult for themselves again they’re asking for trouble. Munster gave Edinburgh a 13 points start in the opening nine minutes. That they recovered to finally outscore Edinburgh with five tries was a measure of their resilience and experience, but it was always too close for comfort.
“It was a pretty shoddy opening from us,” admitted Munster coach Alan Gaffney. “We didn’t retain the ball for ten minutes, gave away silly penalties, and while they were good, we were poor.”
Given the circumstances, Gaffney was relieved to see Munster 17-13 in front at half-time. “We dominated the remainder of the half and scored three pretty good tries.”
Those came from John Hayes, Alan Quinlan and Anthony Horgan with Jason Holland adding one conversion. Yet, even after a fourth try from Denis Leamy, Munster were unable to finish Edinburgh off.
One reason, according to Gaffney, was their inability to secure quality possession at the breakdown.
“That’s the main area we have to improve on before Edinburgh come back in two weeks. They are both competitive and successful at the breakdown. They have a very strong, very aggressive forward pack.
“They have a particularly good back row, will probably have Simon Taylor back for the next match and so it certainly won’t be easy for us.
“Earlier in the season Edinburgh were near the bottom but they fought their way up once their players came back from international duty. They fought their way up to the point they could even have even won themselves a home quarter. That’s how little there was between the teams around the middle of the table.
“This was probably a timely reminder that they’re a force to be reckoned with and we will treat them with the respect they deserve.”
Edinburgh struck back midway through with an Alisdair Dickinson try, which Chris Paterson converted, to narrow the gap to two points.
Munster’s anxiety was eased somewhat when Leamy was sent in for his second try by Peter Stringer but Edinburgh remained a threat until replacement Paul Burke knocked over a penalty in injury-time.
It was a deserved Munster win that would surely have been more comfortable had Jason Holland been more accurate with his goal-kicking.
: S. Payne, P. Devlin, M. Mullins, R. Henderson, A. Horgan, J. Holland, P. Stringer; G. McIlwham, F. Sheahan, J. Hayes, T. Hogan, P. O’Connell, A. Quinlan, A. Foley (capt), D. Leamy.
: J. Kelly for Horgan (60), D. O’Callaghan for Hogan (62), P. Burke for Henderson (67), S. Keogh for Leamy (73), E. McGovern for McIlwham (79).
: H. Southwell, C. Paterson, M. di Rollo, B. Laney, S. Webster, P. Godman, M. Blair, A. Jacobsen, A. Kelly, C. Smith, N. Hines, S. Murray, T. Blackadder (capt), D. Callam, A. Hogg.
: A. Kellock for Hines (27), A. Dickonson for Jacobsen (51), S. Cross for Callam (62), C. Joiner for Laney (71).
: N. Williams (Wales).