It looks like it will be the Challenge Cup for the third year in a row for Edinburgh after Alan Solomons’ side fell to a 27-19 defeat and were leapfrogged by Munster into sixth place in the Pro12 standings.
With one round to go Edinburgh now trail Munster by five points and need Scarlets to do them a favour at Thomond Park next week, while a win is a must for the Scottish side at home to Cardiff Blues.
Three first-half tries from the home side looked to have eased Munster towards the win, but despite Jason Tovey’s 16 points and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s penalty, Munster took all five point when Francis Saili bagged their fourth try at the death.
Having won five of their last six home games, Edinburgh will fancy their chances against the in-form Blues next Saturday, but anything but the second tier competition is likely for them in Europe at this stage.
Edinburgh had already lost all three visits to Ireland this season, but three defeats by five, seven and seven-point margins hinted at a side that enjoy their weekends away across the Irish Sea.
But there can be little good feeling after this defeat, especially considering Edinburgh only trailed by one point with three minutes remaining after they held their hosts scoreless for most of the second half.
In the opening action there was plenty of positive play from Edinburgh, but in their first meaningful attack Munster struck for the first try of the game. With Ben Toolis closing quickly to make a massive hit on out-half Johnny Holland, the No.10 did very well to get his kick away. And after the cover defender was counter rucked aggressively by the chasing Munster pack, a couple of phases from left to right resulted in Rory Scannell scoring in the corner.
Edinburgh were unfortunate to lose 19-year-old full-back Blair Kinghorn to a head injury in the sixth minute, but that setback didn’t deter their impressive form on the front foot, as they showed a lot more variety and width to their play than usual.
And after 15 minutes a good linebreak from Matt Scott down the left drew the Munster defence into an offside position, and Tovey slotted the penalty to cut the lead to 7-3.
An Edinburgh scrum on halfway played a big role in how the visitors took the lead for the first time after 19 minutes. The set piece was rock solid and the quick hands across the line saw them gain 20 metres en route to the try-line.
And in the end Tovey identified a gap in the defensive line alongside tighthead Stephen Archer, but his sidestep to put Zebo on his back on the way to the score was brilliant. 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 his 45th try for the province.
The home side soon added to their lead six minutes from the break when they struck for their third try of the half. Initially CJ Stander was held up over the line, but after the scrum that followed, Billy Holland sent Conway in in the corner.
But Edinburgh didn’t deserve to trail by ten at the break, and a penalty earned at the scrum was kicked by Tovey in the 38th minute as Munster led by 20-13 at the interval.
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 make it 20-16.
The third quarter was devoid of all the attacking flair that the first 40 minutes was full off, but Ian Davies penalised the collapsing Munster scrum and Sam Hidalgo Clyne drilled over the penalty from the ten metre line.
Just one point then separated the sides, and a nervy final 15 minutes followed for both sides, but Munster wrapped up the win three minutes from time when Saili crashed over after Munster forced a couple of penalties in the corner.
Munster: Tries: R Scannell, S Zebo, A Conway, F Saili. Cons: J Holland 2. Pen J Holland
Edinburgh: Try: J Tovey. Con: J Tovey. Pens: J Tobey 3, S Hidalgo-Clyne
Munster: Zebo; Conway, Saili, Scannell, Earls; J Holland, Murray; Kilcoyne (Cronin 55), Scannell (Sherry 58), Archer (Ryan 68); Foley (Copeland 63), B Holland; O’Callaghan (O’Donoghue 75), O’Donnell, Stander.
Unused subs: Williams, Keatley, O’Mahony
Edinburgh: Kinghorn (Fife 6); Hoyland, Scott, Strauss, Brown (Dean h-t); Tovey, Kennedy (Hidalgo-Clyne 55); Dickinson (Sutherland 58), Ford (McInally h-t), Nel (Andress 67); Bresler (A Toolis 67), B Toolis; Ritchie (Bradbury 53), Hardie, Du Preez.
Unused subs: none
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)