Leinster edge past Munster into Pro14 final

Pro14: Leinster v Munster
Leinster (10) 16
Tries: Conan Con: Carberry Pens: Byrne (2), Carberry
Munster (3) 15
Tries: Earls, Grobler Con: Keatley Pen: Hanrahan

Leinster will meet reigning champions Scarlets in the Pro14 final after securing a narrow victory over Munster in Dublin.

Number eight Jack Conan’s try gave the hosts an early advantage.

Munster responded through Keith Earls but could not wrestle the lead off their opponents.

Gerbrandt Grobler’s 79th-minute try set up a grandstand finish but Leinster held on to book their place in the 26 May final at the Aviva Stadium.

Wing James Lowe, who missed out on Leinster’s Champions Cup final squad, showed no signs of rust as he made considerable inroads into Munster territory in the early exchanges.

Leinster celebrate the win which sets up a final meeting with Pro14 holders Scarlets<!–

The New Zealander was the key figure in Conan’s opening score, breaking past Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway on the left wing and stepping past the Munster full-back just a few phases later as the home side found quick ball.

His one-handed offload while stumbling to the ground was undoubtedly the standout moment of a first half played at break-neck speed. Conan gratefully received the pass to run under the posts untouched.

Despite a sluggish start, last year’s beaten finalists Munster began to look dangerous with ball in hand but their wayward passing let them down on a number of occasions when their pack had put them in a good position.

Leinster’s ability to retain the ball for long spells, a trait which has served them well all season, was on display as James Ryan made several notable carries through the middle.

Lowe continued to offer a real attacking outlet and looked sure to add his side’s second try when he was released out wide. Only a wonderful recovery tackle from Sammy Arnold denied Leinster opening up a considerable lead.

The visitors’ brightest spell came in the 10 minutes either side of the half as they set up camp in Leinster territory.

Lock Jean Kleyn was sent to the bin following a reckless clear-out on Ross Byrne, but the 14 men of Munster continued on the front foot despite the numerical disadvantage.

Keith Earls scores vs Leinster<!–

Ireland’s Player’s Player of the Year Earls showed typical finishing ability when he touched down following a clever Zebo offload, despite the attention of two Leinster defenders.

Zebo, on his last appearance for Munster before joining Parisian side Racing 92, showed flashes of his trademark footwork, most notably when he found space on the left wing and chipped the ball over the oncoming Jordan Larmour but the bounce of the ball did not favour Munster’s all-time leading try scorer.

Second half points were hard to come by as place kickers on both sides struggled to measure the swirling winds at the RDS.

However, Joey Carbery’s penalty five minutes from time pushed Leinster’s lead to eight points.

Grobler’s opportunistic try against the base of the post after quick thinking by Conor Murray set up an exciting finish as Munster drove into Leinster territory with the clock in the red.

A final turnover from substitute Max Deegan prompted jubilant scenes in Dublin as Leinster set up a final clash against their Champions Cup semi-final opponents.

Leinster: J Carbery; J Larmour, G Ringrose, I Nacewa, J Lowe; R Byrne, L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong, D Toner, J Ryan, R Ruddock, J Murphy, J Conan.

Replacements: J Tracy, C Healy, A Porter, S Fardy, M Deegan, N McCarthy, R O’Loughlin, B Daly.

Munster: S Zebo; A Conway, S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray; J Cronin, R Marshall, J Ryan, J Kleyn, B Holland, P O’Mahony, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Replacements: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, C Parker, G Grobler, R Copeland, D Williams, I Keatley, D Sweetnam.

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