Leinster 13 Munster 3
CONOR Murray’s last play of his game summed up Munster’s night, a fumble with Munster in a favourable position as they left a chance of making the final behind them.
Perhaps the third tough game in three weeks took its toll but Munster’s tight five were never able to dominate the game in the way they had over the last two weekends.
This game certainly wasn’t the same as the six-try thriller a fortnight ago at the Aviva Munster were able to get into the Leinster 22 but weren’t able to convert it into scores.
Leinster captain Johnny Sexton showed his class in the first half in extremely slippery conditions and his ability to land the important scores proved pivotal as Munster lost their third PRO14 semi-final on the bounce.
That was in contrast to JJ Hanrahan who missed two kickable attempts.
The telling score came from Ronan Kelleher and could have easily been a turnover decision as the Leinster hooker looked to have made a double movement.
It doesn’t matter now as his side march on to the final.
The thing that will stick in Munster craws was that they had the chances but missed opportunities cost them and the Reds will have to wait another year before they have an opportunity to put something in the trophy cabinet, one that hasn’t been opened since 2011.
JJ Hanrahan opened the scoring after just four minutes for an early Munster lead.
The Reds huffed and puffed their way into the Leinster 22 many times in the first quarter but weren’t able to turn it into scores and that proved key.
One telling moment into the first 40 minutes was an attack where Munster’s Springbok Damian De Allende took on Leinster captain Johnny Sexton with the Leinster player coming out on top in that challenge to earn a free-kick for his side.
It took Leinster all of 26 minutes to get into the Munster 22 but they did it with telling effect as they drove over from a penalty lineout with Ronan Kelleher adjudged by TMO Brian McNeice not to have made a double movement on the ground.
Munster weren’t putting as much pressure on the kick receiver in the first half due to some great shepherding by the Leinster forwards of the receiver.
The Blues kept their game plan really simple in the first half by playing mostly 10-man rugby in very slippery conditions.
Munster tried to spread it and used box kicks too many times to put any sort of pressure on the champions in the conditions.
Sexton converted Kelleher’s try and added a penalty in the 39th minute to give his side a 10-3 lead at the interval.
Munster were still getting into the danger zone but shooting themselves in the foot turning over a penalty after 54 minutes before Hanrahan missed a penalty on the hour mark and missed an easier effort two minutes later.
Sexton made no such mistake in the 65th minute to extend the Leinster lead to 13-3 before being substituted.
Josh van der Flier was barely on the pitch before being yellow carded and from the resulting penalty, Munster passed forward and that was their last chance gone.
That cut like a knife through the hearts of Munster players as another trip to Dublin yielded nothing for the team in red.
Scorers for Leinster: Tries: R Kelleher; con: J Sexton; pen: J Sexton (2).
Munster: Pen: JJ Hanrahan.
LEINSTER: J Larmour, H Keenan, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J Lowe, J Sexton (Capt), Luke McGrath, C Healy, R Kelleher, A Porter, D Toner, S Fardy, C Doris, W Connors. J Conan.
Replacements: O’Loughlin for Larmour (46 blood) R Baird for Fardy (51), E Byrne for Healy (54), J Gibson-Park for McGrath (59), S Cronin for Kelleher, M Bent for Porter (63), R Byrne for Sexton (67), J van der Flier for Conors (74).
MUNSTER: S Daly; A Conway, C Farrell, D de Allende, K Earls; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray; J Loughman, N Scannell, S Archer; T Beirne, B Holland; P O’Mahony (C), J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Rory Scannell for Conway (45inj), J Ryan for Archer, C Cloete for O’Donoghue (49), J Cronin for Loughman, F Wycherley for Holland (57), K O’Byrne for N Scannell (67), G Coombes for Beirne (75).
Referee: A Brace (IRFU).