|Pro14 semi-final: Leinster v Munster|
|Leinster: (9) 24|
|Tries: Cronin, Lowe Pens: Byrne 4 Con: Byrne|
|Munster: (6) 9|
|Pens: Carbery 3|
Defending champions Leinster will face Glasgow in the Pro14 final after beating Irish rivals Munster 24-9.
The sides traded penalties at first, with four for Leinster 10 Ross Byrne and three for Munster’s Joey Carbery.
The game came to life when Sean Cronin scored Leinster’s first try, while James Lowe added a late second.
Leinster’s win was dampened by a knee injury for second row Devin Toner – an unpleasant sight for Ireland fans four months before the World Cup.
Five-time winners Leinster, who lost the Champions Cup final against Saracens last weekend, will meet Glasgow Warriors at Celtic Park on 25 May.
Fly-halves of the future
Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton started the game on the bench, with Byrne stepping up to fill his place in the Leinster line-up.
The 24-year-old was up against 23-year-old Carbery, who played as Sexton’s back-up in the Six Nations but missed Ireland’s final two games through injury.
Byrne gave Leinster an early lead, but Carbery soon evened things up and then took Munster ahead after Leinster wing Lowe was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.
With the clock in the red, Byrne gave Leinster the advantage once more and extended the lead after the break when Niall Scannell was given a yellow card for offside.
Both players were 100% accurate from the tee – a promising sign for Ireland fans with the World Cup looming.
But there was bad news for national head coach Joe Schmidt as Toner limped from the field after twisting his knee in a collision.
The return of Leinster flanker Josh van der Flier, playing his first game since getting injured in the Six Nations, is a timely boost though, and the Ireland international was given man of the match for his efforts.
Leinster’s slow start
It initially looked as though Leinster’s Champions Cup defeat had made them sluggish as they struggled to string together an attack.
Munster, who have not won the league title since 2011, looked much more fluid and dominated the first half.
But Leinster waited patiently and their moment came. The ball passed through the hands of props Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong before finding Cronin who stepped through two defenders to score.
New Zealand-born wing Lowe got his name on the scoresheet in the final seconds after beating Chris Farrell in a one-on-one to go over in the left corner.
What they said
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen said on Premier Sports:
“The first half was a bit scratchy. We were a bit inaccurate and couldn’t quite get into a flow.
“It was much better in the second half. We looked more threatening and created more opportunities. We were disciplined, composed and controlled for most parts.”
Munster head coach Johann van Graan said on Premier Sports:
“We can’t fault the effort and the attitude. We weren’t good enough out there today. For them to score that try [Cronin] was crucial in the outcome.”
Leinster: Larmour; D Kearney, Ringrose, Henshaw, Lowe; R Byrne, McGrath; Healy, Cronin, Furlong, Toner, Ryan, Ruddock (capt), van der Flier, Conan.
Replacements: O’Loughlin for Henshaw (32), Fardy for Toner (40), Henshaw for O’Loughlin (40), Sexton for R Byrne (57), B Byrne for Cronin (62), E Byrne for Healy (62), Porter for Furlong (62), McCarthy for McGrath (71), Deegan for van der Flier (77), O’Loughlin for Henshaw (79)
Sin-bin: Lowe (25).
Munster: Haley; Conway, Farrell, R Scannell, Earls; Carbery, Murray; Kilcoyne, N Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Beirne, O’Mahony (capt), Stander, Botha.
Replacements: Archer for Ryan (57), O’Donoghue for Botha (58), Holland for Kleyn (58), Goggin for R Scannell (68), Mathewson for Murray (68), O’Connor for Kilcoyne (70), Hanrahan for Carbery (72), O’Byrne for N Scannell (77).
Sin-bin: N Scannell (44).