Zebo magic helps Munster set up Leinster semi final clash

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Keith Earls is congratulated by teammates after scoring his sides second try during against Edinburgh. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Munster are into the Guinness Pro14 semi final after beating Edinburgh 20-16 at a sun drenched Thomond Park.

On his final appearance at Thomond Park in Munster colours, Simon Zebo proved to be the game changer by setting up Keith Earls for the first try of the second half.

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JJ Hanrahan also kicked 15 points and Munster will now play Leinster at the RDS on May 19 in the semi final.

Munster made the breakthrough after just eight minutes. JJ Hanrahan’s perfectly timed kick in behind the Edinburgh defence found touch.

Stuart McInally’s throw went astray and Marshall was on hand to power over after holding off a couple of Edinburgh tackles. Hanrahan nailed the extras to put Munster 7-0 up.

Edinburgh had plenty of the ball after Munster’s positive early start with Duhan van der Merwe and Villiame Mata impressing.

Van der Merwe made the Scottish side’s first foray into Munster’s half with a break through Billy Holland and Stephen Archer’s attempted tackles.

The South African then offloaded to Mark Bennett and he ghosted towards the Munster line only to be denied by Conor Murray. Munster regathered their shape and the attack broke down after Simon Berghan knocked on.

Edinburgh kept up the pressure and were rewarded on 18 minutes through a Sam Hidalgo-Clyne penalty after dangerous play by James Cronin.

The Scottish scum half then reduced Munster’s lead to one point with a second effort from the kicking tee on 25 minutes.

Late in the half, Edinburgh were almost away when Blair Kinghorn took advantage of an aimless Rory Scannell kick to launch a superb counter attack.

Only heroic defence from Keith Earls kept Richard Cockerill’s men at bay. Munster’s Player of the Year made the initial tackle on Kinghorn and followed it with two more to stop Edinburgh in their tracks and Johann van Graan’s side were lucky to go in at the break 7-6 in front.

Munster started the second half with a bang. A Mata knock on led to a scrum in the Edinburgh half. CJ Stander powered off the base and then Jean Kleyn took the ball on.

A high tackle by Jaco van der Welt on Kleyn saw Munster earn a penalty advantage and then Zebo intervened with a moment of magic.

He chipped over and gathered after collecting a loose pass before firing an inch perfect pass left to Earls, who was then left with an easy finish in the left corner. Hanrahan added a splendid touchline conversion to put Munster 17-6 ahead.

Edinburgh responded with a Hidalgo-Clyne penalty and then a Nathan Fowles try but it was Munster who clung on for victory after Hanrahan sealed a 20-16 win.

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway (Darren Sweetnam h-t), Sammy Arnold, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne, 60), Rhys Marshall (Mike Sherry, 70), Stephen Archer (Ciaran Parker, 16); Jean Kleyn (Gerbrandt Grobler 52), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (Robin Copeland, 60).

EDINBURGH: Blair Kinghorn; Dougie Fyfe, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean (James Johnstone, 75), Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Welt (Duncan Weir, 64), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Nathan Fowles, 56); (Allan Dell, 51), Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan (WP Nel, 51); Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrest; Lewis Carmichael, Magnus Bradbury, Villiame Mata (Cornell du Preez, 61).

REFEREE: Nigel Owens (WRU)