IT WAS another dismal day at the office for Edinburgh yesterday, with some early spirit giving way to a desperate and error-strewn performance.
They matched Munster for the first 20 minutes, but from that point on the gulf in class was painfully obvious.
Alan Solomons' team made it all too easy for Munster to keep up the pressure on second-placed Glasgow in the RaboDirect PRO12 table, still in third place but now only a point behind.
There was talk of Edinburgh being buoyed by their late rally against Glasgow a week ago, but it sounded horribly hollow as they fell to their heaviest defeat of the season, with Munster blasting past the 44 points Ospreys scored against them last September. The official line from Murrayfield has been that Edinburgh are making progress; the margin of their 14th defeat of the season says something rather different.
There was a poignant element, of course, with this being Greig Laidlaw's final home game before his exit for Gloucester, but the occasion was lent an air of comic perversity when the scrum- half, who had been miles below his best, was named man of the match. Bleaker still, the strains of Coldplay's "Fix You" blasted out from the Meggetland public address system at the end. As if the Edinburgh players didn't feel bad enough at that stage, they then had to suffer Chris Martin droning on. "Stuck in reverse," bleated the dirgemeister. "Could it be worse?" he went on. Probably not, we muttered.
"We were well beaten, there's no question about that," said Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons. "They are tired, tired guys. They are basically out on their feet at this stage of the season."
That the stakes were higher for Munster was not exactly obvious from the way they started the game. If anything, Edinburgh had more urgency and drive about them in the early stages, and it was no travesty whatsoever when the capital side took the lead with a try by fly-half Carl Bezuidenhout after eight minutes. It came from a scrum near the 22, from where the ball was quickly moved to the left side. Jack Cuthbert hit the line at pace, Matt Scott made a lot of yards and Bezuidenhout finished off.
The score stunned Munster, but a stunned Munster is a dangerous Munster and they came back strongly. JJ Hanrahan cut Edinburgh's lead to 5-3 with a penalty in the 14th minute, but the Irish side did far more significant damage when they hit the throttle two minutes later, hard running and slick passing down the left to cut the home side open as Andrew Conway swept in for their first try.
It was a salutary demonstration of Munster's raw abilities. Edinburgh's moves were far more laboured but at least they tried to get things going, and they had improbable reward in the 21st minute when Willem Nel spun over from short range for their second try, although it took the intervention of the TV official before it could be confirmed.
That effort kept Edinburgh in it as far as the scoreline was concerned, but there was a growing feeling that the life was being squeezed out of them in every other area. Munster looked so much more dangerous whenever they were on the ball, and they showed their renowned efficiency at converting action in their opponents' 22 into action on the scoreboard as well.
Another penalty by Hanrahan looked to have given Munster a 13-12 lead at half time, but as the interval approached the visitors decided they could go one better. Or, rather, seven better, as a try by Denis Hurley - who swept pass Jack Cuthbert with embarrassing ease - just before the break, embroidered by Hanrahan's conversion, gave them a far more convincing and realistic advantage.
Eight minutes into the second period, Munster all but killed the contest when a driving maul ended with Damien Varley collecting their third try. At that point, the fourth was a virtual certainty, so it was no great shock when it, and the bonus point, arrived five minutes later, although it was of the penalty variety as Edinburgh tried to stop yet another drive illegally.
With the job done, Paul O'Connell took his leave, replaced by Dave Foley even as Hanrahan was clipping over the conversion of the fourth try. A few minutes later, replacement scrum-half Duncan Williams collected Munster's fifth try, Another penalty try followed, with Tommy O'Donnell rubbing salty ignominy in the last seconds of the match with Munster's seventh touchdown.
Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; T Brown (S Beard, 18), M Scott, A Strauss (P Francis, 72), T Visser; C Bezuidenhout, G Laidlaw (capt; G Hart, 70)); A Dickinson (W Blaauw, 66), R Ford (J Hilterbrand, , W Nel, G Gilchrist, D Denton, M Coman, T Leonardi, C Du Preez (D Basilaia, 60).
Munster: S Zebo; G Van der Heever, J Murphy, D Hurley, A Conway; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray (D Williams, 60 - 70); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne, D Casey, J Ryan, D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (capt; D Foley, 54)), CJ Stander (J Coughlan, 66), T O'Donnell, P Butler.
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy)