Leinster 35 Munster 25
MUNSTER lost their final regular URC fixture at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening against an inexperienced Leinster side, who ultimately had too much firepower for them.
Munster started the day hoping to secure second spot in the URC table which would have set up home quarter-final and semi-final ties in the play-offs but they ended up shipping a costly defeat to a second-string Leinster side which means they'll now be away.
Munster found out just before kickoff that the Stormers had secured the bonus point they required in Llanelli, so nothing less than a bonus-point victory of their own would suffice if Munster were going to secure the coveted second spot in the table, while they needed a win of any description to ensure they got a home quarter-final. They came up way short on both counts.
The game started horribly from a Munster perspective when Leinster controlled the ball from the kickoff and they moved the ball brilliantly through the hands before openside Scott Penny blasted through a weak Joey Carbery tackle on the right to score in the corner after just 90 seconds.
And after repelling Munster's first attack Leinster marched down the pitch and scored through a 9th minute Harry Byrne penalty to extend the home sides lead.
Munster needed a response and they got it with captain Jack O'Donoghue crashing over in the 13th minute in the right corner after a superb looping pass from Keith Earls put him in the clear.
Four minutes later and Munster were in for their second try when full-back Mike Haley sniped over under the posts from close range as Munster found themselves halfway towards the bonus point inside the opening quarter.
Munster then let the electric Jordan Larmour escape from deep in his own 22 to set up a brilliant attacking platform for Leinster and when Ciarán Frawley broke the line he was able to put scrum-half, Cormac Foley, away for a superb breakaway try in the 23rd minute.
Leinster right winger Rob Russell was then sin-binned in the 39th minute for a deliberate knock-on in the tackle but Munster failed to capitalise as they ended an extremely sloppy second quarter by coughing up possession as Leinster led 15-12 at the halftime break.
The second half was only seconds old when Joey Carbery's restart wasn’t collected by Leinster and when it bounced up invitingly Conor Murray didn't need a second invitation as he picked up and walked in the easier score he'll nab this year. Unfortunately, it was as good as it got for Munster.
Harry Byrne responded with a 46th-minute penalty for Leinster to make it 18-19 but Carbery answered with one of his own in the 49th minute to restore Munster's four-point lead, but from that juncture, it all went pear-shaped for Munster.
Leinster had a huge period which started when referee Frank Murphy awarded Leinster a penalty try in the 51st minute, with Niall Scannell being sent to the bin, and four minutes later Leinster easily worked a mismatch on the left and Rory O’Loughlin was able to glide over to make it 32-22 for what was a crucial try.
Carbery slotted a 61st-minute penalty to get Munster back within seven points but Byrne kept Munster at arm's length with a three-pointer of his own soon after, and Munster just could not find a way to get themselves back into contention as their challenge petered out.
H Byrne (3 pens, 1 con), Penny, Foley, O’Loughlin (1 try each), penalty try.
Larmour; Russell, Osborne, Frawley, O’Loughlin, H Byrne, Foley; E Byrne (capt.), Cronin, Clarkson; McCarthy, Murphy; Baird, Penny, Deegan.
A Byrne for Frawley (27), Healy, McKee and Dooley for E Byrne, Cronin, Clarkson (50), Toner for J Murphy (55), B Murphy for Foley (59), Soroka for McCarthy (66), Hawkshaw for H Byrne (77).
Haley; Conway, Farrell, Goggin, Earls; Carbery, Murray; J Wycherley, N Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Ahern; F Wycherley, Kendellen, O’Donoghue (capt.).
Jenkins for Kleyn (49), Loughman, Knox and R Scannell for J Wycherley, Ryan and Goggin (51), Barron for N Scannell (59), Daly and Healy for Ahern and Conway (64), N Scannell for Kendellen (66), Ahern for Daly (75) Patterson for Murray (76).
Frank Murphy (IRFU).