PA Sport Staff
An understrength Leinster side rose to the occasion to win 35-25 at the Aviva Stadium and deny Munster a home quarter-final in the United Rugby Championship.
Four tries in 22 minutes – with Scott Penny’s opener coming inside 90 seconds – made for a highly entertaining first half which ended 15-12 in the table toppers’ favour.
Penny and Cormac Foley crossed for the hosts, who rested their first-choice players ahead of next week’s Heineken Champions Cup final, while Munster had back-to-back scores from Jack O’Donoghue and Mike Haley.
An opportunist Conor Murray try moved Munster a step closer to finishing second overall, but Leinster roared back with a penalty try – Niall Scannell saw yellow for collapsing a maul – and a rapid Rory O’Loughlin effort.
Ross Byrne’s 70th-minute penalty rounded off the scoring for Leinster, who have a home quarter-final against Glasgow. Ending up in sixth place, Munster will travel to Ulster in the last eight.
Returning to the scene of their heartbreaking European exit, Johann van Graan’s men were stunned when Ciaran Frawley’s cross-field kick played in Penny in the right corner.
After fly-half Byrne tagged on a penalty for 8-0, Munster’s stand-in captain O’Donoghue clawed back five points with an excellent finish out wide from a long Keith Earls pass.
Ever-alert full-back Haley sniped in under the posts in the 16th minute, making it a quick-fire double for the visitors.
Jordan Larmour’s electric run inspired Leinster’s second try, finished by scrum-half Foley following Frawley’s midfield break. Byrne’s boot made it 15-12.
However, with Leinster winger Rob Russell binned for a deliberate knock-on, Murray scooped up a breaking ball from a Haley bomb for a gift of a score.
Joey Carbery converted and then cancelled out a Byrne penalty, only for Leinster’s second string to lift their game.
Foley’s brilliant 50:22 kick led to the penalty try, with Munster hooker Scannell also seeing yellow.
O’Loughlin followed up with a terrific bonus-point effort, the initial damage caused again by Larmour. Byrne’s conversion made it a 10-point game.
Carbery chipped away with his second penalty, yet a long-range strike from Byrne settled the issue with Leinster’s defence on top late on.