Leinster shatter Munster's season to march on to PRO14 final
LEINSTER 16-15 MUNSTER
The winners keep winning but, hell, it was one grandstand finish.
Leinster set up a Guinness PRO14 final with Scarlets, next weekend, but they were pushed all the way in a pulsating contest at The RDS.
James Ryan, who was a titan for Leinster, set a bruising tone with a big, early tackle on Jean Kleyn and Jordi Murphy pounced to turnover
Early Leinster pressure was rewarded when Jack McGrath made a well timed pass to Lowe that took Sam Arnold out. Lowe stepped Simon Zebo and offloaded to Jack Conan to give him the simple task of dotting down.
It's the hosts who strike first in the Guinness PRO14 semi-final 🏉@JackConan1 opens the scoring for Leinster Rugby against Munster Rugby after some great running by @jameslowenz 💪
Watch it live now on @SkySports Action and @SportTG4 📺#GUINNESSPRO14 pic.twitter.com/60Rld2rmc2
— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) May 19, 2018
Ryan bounced Bill Holland to make a 30-metre break up the pitch before Jack O'Donoghue hauled him down and Keith Earls poached excellently.
Leinster were making ground on far too many of their carries for Munster's liking but CJ Stander relieved some pressure with an excellent piece of jackaling at the breakdown. On 20 minutes, following a lovely piece of footwork from Garry Ringrose, Ryan made a strong carry and was not released. Penalty to Leinster and Ross Byrne made it 10-3.
Munster looked on the verge of levelling the scores, on 34 minutes, when CJ Stander powered for the line but Ryan did superbly to hold him up. The try would not have counted, anyway, as Kleyn has illegally cleared Ross Byrne out at the previous ruck.
Kleyn was yellow-carded and Leinster remained 10-3 ahead at the break. Ian Keatley replaced JJ Hanrahan at half-time and was involved in the move that saw Keith Earls score in the corner after a great pass from Zebo and some poor defence by Joey Carbery.
Keatley missed his conversion and, typical of a team used to winning, Leinster immediately replied with a Byrne penalty to make it 13-8.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, Munster were awarded a penalty 35 metres out and just to the left of the posts. Conor Murray initially signalled he would kick for goal but, after some consultation with Peter O'Mahony, changed his mind and kicked for touch.
Munster were going for the attacking lineout but Ryan disrupted that and, less than a minute later, sub James Tracy turned over the ball when Kleyn was isolated. It was a massive moment for the home side.
13-8 with a kickable penalty but go to touch... why; against the European Champions would you not take 3 valuable points????
— Liam Toland (@LiamToland7) May 19, 2018
Leinster then sealed their place in the final when Andrew Porter, on for Tadhg Furlong, won a scrum penalty and Joey Carbery slotted it over.
There was still late drama, though, as Gerbrandt Grobler got over for a late, converted try but Leinster held on. Max Deegan ended the contest with a fantastic turnover on 81 minutes.
Job done. Game over. Leinster will meet Scarlets in next week's final at the Aviva Stadium.
SPORTSJOE MAN OF THE MATCH: James Ryan