Munster maintained their stranglehold on PRO14 Conference B after securing their 10th league win of the season by overcoming Edinburgh 22-10 at Murrayfield.
Johann van Graan’s men failed to increase their buffer over fellow Irish province Connacht, who beat Cardiff Blues 32-17, but they moved a significant step closer to the final.
Jack O’Donoghue and Craig Casey gave the conference leaders a deserved half-time lead and, while Bill Mata struck back for the Scots just after the break, it was the visitors who proved the more clinical as they added a third score through Gavin Coombes.
It was a blow to Edinburgh’s European hopes as they suffered their seventh PRO14 defeat of the campaign.
Richard Cockerill’s men still have five games left to play but sit 11 points behind Scarlets in third, who have played two games more than the Scottish side.
Munster coughed up four penalties inside the opening nine minutes but all Edinburgh could muster from those gifts was a solitary Jaco van der Walt penalty which was soon cancelled out by JJ Hanrahan at the other end.
The story of Edinburgh’s season has been costly missed chances and yet again a bout of white-line fever left Cockerill feeling sick.
They were handed a golden opportunity by Andrew Conway’s knock-on 10 metres from the Munster line.
Eroni Sau led the charge before Andrew Davidson tried to bulldoze his way into score – only to be met by a wall of seven red jerseys who simply refused to buckle.
Coombes was also held up mere inches from the line for the visitors but the difference was Munster had the perseverance to go again, with O’Donoghue bending his body one way then the other as he rolled over Dave Cherry to dot down the opening score after 30 minutes.
Van der Walt overcooked the kick-off as Edinburgh followed up one mistake with another to find themselves immediately back under pressure.
Chris Cloete opted for the sneak attack with a tap and go. He was held up, O’Donoghue too but scrum-half Casey was small enough to fit through a chink in the Edinburgh line as he gave the Irishmen a 14-point lead at the break.
But it took just six minutes for the capital club to hit back after the restart.
Henry Pyrgos gained Cockerill’s team some much-needed territory with a brilliant low kick to touch. Munster choked on the exit and ended up handing back seven points to the hosts as Mata eventually barged over.
But those Edinburgh gains were soon wiped out. A big scrum shunt saw the hosts pinned back into their own 22. Casey’s snipe was caught just before the line but Coombes had the power to crash over for Munster’s third try on 57 minutes.
All hope for the Murrayfield men was lost as they saw five minutes of grunting come to nothing as they failed to convert from five yards out after a series of huge collisions and collapsed scrums.
There was a worrying sight before the final whistle as Davidson had to be taken off the field on a stretcher wearing a neck brace.
Connacht's Alex Wootton powers through a gap in the Cardiff defence! 🟢
That's a try each and we've got a good game shaping up at The Sportsground 👀 pic.twitter.com/MTxO47gnzj
— Premier Sports 📺 (@PremierSportsTV) February 20, 2021
Connacht ended a run of three successive PRO14 home defeats with a 32-17 bonus point win over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.
Rhys Carre’s first-ever try for Cardiff looked an important score, until Alex Wootton’s quickfire brace just before half-time handed the hosts a 20-10 lead.
Corey Domachowski became the second Cardiff prop to touch down in the 64th minute, but Connacht captain Jarrad Butler and replacement Abraham Papali’i sewed up the result with final-quarter tries.
Scarlets kept alive their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions Cup with a comprehensive 41-17 bonus-point victory over Benetton in Llanelli.
Two tries from Jac Morgan and scores from Sam Costelow, Dane Blacker, Sione Kalamafoni and Paul Asquith, along with 11 points from the boots of Dan Jones and Steff Evans got Scarlets over the line.
Leonardo Sarto and Cornelius Els scored Benetton’s tries, with four points coming from Edoardo Padovani.
Ospreys inched to a 10-0 win over Zebre in the PRO14 at a wet Liberty Stadium.
Heavy drizzle made for difficult conditions and both teams produced constant errors, with the home side’s discipline and ability to keep hold of the ball close to non-existent.
The only positive for Ospreys head coach Toby Booth was the win as it prevented Zebre doing the double over his team this season.
Josh Thomas kicked a penalty and there was a late try from man of the match Rhys Webb which Thomas improved as Zebre were kept scoreless.