Alan Solomons’ Edinburgh will need Munster to slip up in the last round of the Guinness Pro12 if they are to end a two-year drought for European Champions Cup rugby after defeat in Cork last night.
Three first-half tries from the home side looked to have eased Munster towards the win. However, Edinburgh fought back, with stand-off Jason Tovey putting 16 points on the board for the visitors who moved to within a point of the host before a try from Francis Saili sealed the bonus-point win for Munster three minutes from time.
In the opening action there was plenty of positive play from Edinburgh and an uncharacteristic handing error from CJ Stander saw the home side pinned in their own 22 for the first five minutes.
But, in their first meaningful attack, Munster struck for the first try of the game when Rory Scannell scored in the corner. Jonathan Holland converted.
Edinburgh were unfortunate to lose 19-year-old full-back Blair Kinghorn to a head injury in the sixth minute but, 15 minutes in, a good linebreak from Matt Scott drew the Munster defence into an offside position and Tovey slotted the penalty to cut the lead to 7-3.
The lead was soon Edinburgh’s when Tovey identified a gap in the defensive line and then sidestepped Simon Zebo on the way to the try. His conversion made it 10-7 but, in a lively opening half, the home side soon hit back to level when Holland kicked a penalty after Ford was penalised for not rolling away.
Tovey missed a 24th minute penalty to retake the lead for Edinburgh and, four minutes later, Munster inflicted further damage when Zebo raced on to Andrew Conway’s chip through from halfway to score.
The home side added to their lead six minutes from the break when Billy Holland sent Conway over in the corner, only for Tovey to kick a 38th minute penalty as Munster led by 20-13 at the interval.
Facing the best scrum in the Pro12, a Munster front row that came out second best against Connacht at the Sportsground last time out, should have proved easy pickings for the all-Scottish international trio of Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford and WP Nel.
Home coach Anthony Foley did change things around a bit for the home side with the introduction of Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell, and, in the first half, neither side could say they lorded the scrum, with Munster opting for quick, first-channel ball at every opportunity to negate the Edinburgh strength.
But it was at the breakdown that Munster coughed up their next penalty three minutes after the restart and Tovey’s sweet strike from the left reduced the home side’s advantage to 20-16.
The third quarter was devoid of all the attacking flair that the first 40 minutes was full of.
The experienced Edinburgh scrum began to gain the upperhand after the restart, which prompted a couple of quick changes in the front row from the home side. But, even after prop Dickinson limped off, Edinburgh were on top in that area and, 15 minutes from time, Ian Davies penalised the collapsing Munster scrum and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne drilled over the penalty from the ten metre line.
Just one point separated the sides after that score and a nervy final 15 minutes followed for both sides, but Saili sealed the win late on.