A 9th final in 11 years awaits Leinster next Sunday after they continued their winning run against Munster in the Aviva Stadium. For the 3rd consecutive season Munster fell to the boys in blue in a Pro14 final. The previous year they were beaten finalists against Scarlets.
Muntser took the lead early through a penalty which JJ Hanrahan converted. However Ronan Kelleher would cross the line in the 27th minute with captain Sexton adding the conversion to put Leinster in front. Sexton hit a penalty late in the first half to make the gap a converted try.
There wasn’t another score until after the hour mark. Sexton pushed the lead to 10 points with a penalty. Munster put pressure on but it became apparent as the game went on it wasn’t their day. Leinster defended doggedly, Josh van der Flier was shown yellow with 5 to go. Hanrahan missed two penalties.
Of the ten previous finals Leinster have only failed to reach two. Munster have made three in that time, but have not lifted the trophy since 2011, where they beat Leinster. They were beaten finalists against Glasgow (who lifted their first title) in 2015, and Scarlets in 2017.
Leinster are the only team to lift consecutive league titles in the Pro12/Pro14/Celtic League, which they have done twice. If Leinster win the tournament this year, they will be the first team to win three in a row.
After going behind Leinster put Munster under extreme pressure, which ultimately led to the try. But it wasn’t a case of Munster having none of the ball. Early on Peter O’Mahony led the charge as Munster started brightly.
However, while Munster’s wingers were dangerous in the match two weeks ago at the Aviva and against Connacht, they were without opportunity this week. Keith Earls only had the opportunity to make one carry, Andrew Conway only had three. Comparatively Leinster’s wingers James Lowe and Andrew Conway had seven and six carriers respectively. The fact they couldn’t stretch Leinster as much this week showed, with the Boys in Blue’s defensive line getting across the pitch quickly.
Hugo Keenan was a surprise inclusion in the team, but he nailed Conor Murray with tackle just before the try. From there on Leinster controlled the game. Sexton missed one of his three kicks, but outside of that it was a good performance from the Leinster and Ireland captain.
Blows for Munster and Ireland ahead of the new season as Conway went off injured. He’s one of the form Irish players after the restart, and would be worthy of a starting position alongside Keith Earls.
Leinster will face the winner of Saturday nights Pro14 semifinal between Edinburgh and Ulster. Ulster last won the league in 2006. Edinburgh are yet to win the league, having last finished 2nd in 2009.