Irish Provinces Review after Week 22 of Pro 12

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Week 22 of Pro 12 saw Munster secure a second place finish and a home semi-final with a convincing win over Newport Gwent Dragons. An understrength Ulster lost against Glasgow Warriors. Leinster finished their season with an away win in Edinburgh while Connacht’s top six hopes ended as they lost to the Ospreys at the Sportsgrounds.

Irish Provinces Review after Week 22 of Pro 12

Munster:

Anthony Foley’s side will face the Ospreys in Saturday’s Pro 12 semi-final after hammering the Dragons by 50 – 27. Munster needed a bonus point win from this game and got the first part done in quick time, scoring their fourth try after 23 minutes.

Conor Murray was their star man on the day with a hat trick of tries. Their other scores came from Keith Earls, Andrew Smith, Ronan O’Mahony, CJ Stander with the biggest cheer of the day being saved for Paul O’Connell as he crossed over for his first Pro 12 try since 2013.

All roads now lead to Thomond Park this weekend when the Ospreys visit. The Welsh region have a good recent record against Munster having beaten them twice this season during the league phase. Munster will go into the games as slight favourites and home advantage should see them to the final.

Ulster:

Ulster coach Neil Doak took the surprising decision to rest many of his top players for their trip to Glasgow. It ended up costing them dearly as they were comfortably beaten by 22 points despite leading at half time by four.

Ian Humphreys converted Chris Henry’s try in the first half and also slotted a penalty. That was the end of the scoring for Ulster as they failed to register any points in the second half. Ulster also have a major injury worry as Franco van der Merwe limped off the field after 18 minutes on Saturday.

They must now travel to Scotstaun again on Friday in the Pro 12 Semi Final and will go into the game as big underdogs. The Warriors are unbeaten at home this season and despite Ulster having the added incentive of the Pro 12 Final being on in their home ground, Glasgow will expect to keep their outstanding home record going.

Connacht:

Connacht’s hopes of an automatic entry to next year’s Champions Cup ended as they went down by four points to the Ospreys in their final Pro 12 game. A nightmare first half cost them dearly as their visitors went into half time down by 24 points to nil.

Pat Lam must have worked some magic during the break as his side came right back into the game thanks to tries from Denis Buckley and Eoghan Masterson, two of their best players this season. They eventually ran out of time but will be heartened by the heart and determination in the second half.

Connacht now travel to Kingsholm to play Gloucester next Sunday in a playoff. The winners of that game take on the seventh placed team in the French Top 14 with the victors making the Champions Cup.

Leinster:

Leinster finished their Pro 12 campaign with a 13 point win against Edinburgh. Late tries from Luke McGrath and Jordi Murphy made sure of the win with other tries from Zane Kirchner, Jack Conan and Noel Reid securing a winning bonus point in what was a very entertaining game.

As this was a dead rubber game for Leinster they decided to throw in a few young backs with Noel Reid and Collie O’Shea starring in the centre. Leinster fans will be encouraged to see O’Shea especially getting a chance due to his outstanding form in the domestic All Ireland League.

Matt O’Connor’s side must now regroup during the off season and reflect on what has been a poor season. O’Connor has come under increasing pressure as this season has gone on and it will be interesting to see how the team gels with Jonny Sexton’s return.