Munster collected five points with as many tries to come away from Murrayfield with a sufficient bounty to take second place in the league ahead of Ulster on points difference.
“It keeps us in the hunt for a top-four place,” said Munster’s head coach, Anthony Foley. “It was important for us today with Ulster, Glasgow and Ospreys all getting five points. I think our second-half performance deserved the bonus point. We’ve three games left, with two at home. You want to win your home games and sneak a couple away. We want to maintain top form. I know people talk about a home semi-final but we just want to make sure we’re in the top four. Getting into the knockout stages is our focus.”
Munster’s win at Murrayfield was built on a strong defensive performance throughout and their ability to take advantage of their numerical advantage while Edinburgh’s international wing, Tim Visser, was in the sin bin.
Munster pounced for 19 points in that spell, collecting three tries while Visser was cooling his heels.
And of course there was the matter of returning international players, in which respect Munster benefited far more than Edinburgh. Foley said: “The international boys have enjoyed training with us in the couple of weeks they’ve been back. But it’s great for the bunch of players who worked hard during the Six Nations to get us into the position we’re in. We need everyone going forward to the latter part of this league.”
Of Munster’s returning elite, Conor Murray contributed most, the Ireland and Lions scrum-half richly deserving his man-of-the-match award for an impressive package performance that included shrewd kicking, sniping runs and sound decision making. But Munster can take much from good displays by the pack and particularly the forwards’ skill in the rolling maul, which reaped two tries.
Elsewhere the back three of Felix Jones, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls all looked sharp, while Ian Keatley controlled the game intelligently.
Edinburgh had began the game at pace, lookin gmenacing but their pursuit of an early try was thwarted by robust Munster defence.
Edinburgh did reap the reward of a penalty but that was to be the beginning and end of their scoring.
Munster quickly worked their way back into the game and they too reaped penalty points with a successful kick from their outside half, Keatley. But the breakthrough for Munster came eight minutes before half-time. After a maul following a penalty kick to the corner, the visitors’ forwards drove over for a try credited to hooker Duncan Casey, Keatley adding the conversion for a 10-3 interval lead.
Another driven lineout by Munster gave CJ Stander a try but this was to be just the warm up act for a 10-minute try fest that began just after Visser’s departure. Murray, exploiting the gap on Visser’s wing with a well-taken try converted by Keatley, led the way and then Zebo showed pace to snatch another try. Finally Earls put his name on the scoresheet with a try from a clever grubber kick by Denis Hurley, Keatley again adding the extra points to wrap up a win that could prove crucial to Munster’s play-off ambitions.
Tries Casey, Stander, Murray, Zebo, Earls. Cons Keatley (3) Pen Keatley.
G Tonks (T Brown 68), D Fife, P Burleigh (S Beard 55), A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, N Fowles (G Hart 55); A Dickinson (G Shiells 72), R Ford, WP Nel (W Andress 72), A Bresler (F McKenzie 51), Toolis, R Grant, H Watson, D Denton (S Leonardi 13)(McInally 51).
F Jones, K Earls (R O’Mahoney 65), A Smith, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley (JJ Hanrahan 65), C Murray, D Kilcoyne (Cronin , D Casey (E Guinazu 60), BJ Botha (Cronin 60), B Holland (D Ryan 51), P O’Connell, P O’Mahony (D O’Callaghan 63), T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Ian Davies (WRU).