PRO14 Rugby – Munster beat Connacht in an entertaining encounter which ensured Musntrer playing the PRO14 Final against Leinster.
Matt Healy and James Cronin traded first-half tries as the sides went toe-to-toe at the top of Conference B.
Needing any sort of win to seal top spot, Munster went ahead through a sensational Mike Haley try.
Paul Boyle responded for Connacht but Joey Carbery’s penalty gave the hosts the decisive victory.
It means Munster now hold an unassailable 12-point lead at the top of the conference with just two games remaining.
Their opponents for the final on 27 March will be either Leinster or Ulster, who meet in Belfast on Saturday night.
Leinster hold a six-point lead at the top of Conference B so could book their final berth if they secure five points and deny Ulster any losing bonus-points.
Entering the game nine points behind Munster, Connacht knew in reality that even with a win in Limerick they would need a number of results to go their way if they were to overtake their rivals at this late stage of the season.
They began with furious intent and hit the front after five minutes when Healy collected the excellent Jack Carty’s looping pass.
With numerous internationals playing for both sides, there were intriguing subplots right across the pitch. Bundee Aki, who was left out of Ireland’s matchday squad for their win over Italy, was on his game defensively and produced a brilliant turnover in front of his own line as Connacht absorbed waves of Munster pressure.
Having twice been held up over the line Munster’s perseverance finally paid off as Cronin got over from close range.
Where Munster enjoyed the longer spells with good territory, Connacht’s work at the breakdown was superb while their defensive line-out totally dominated Munster’s set-piece throughout.
Even when they went down to 14 men early in the second half, when Aki was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on, Connacht continued to produce a relentless physical effort.