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Edinburgh 17 Munster 26: Victory of sorts in fifth straight loss

Last season's semi-finalists suffered a fifth successive defeat but yesterday at Murrayfield they finally offered a flicker of a reminder of how they had achieved what was then considered a Scottish breakthrough.

Edinburgh wing Dougie Fife scores between the posts for his second try
Edinburgh wing Dougie Fife scores between the posts for his second try

Two late tries from Dougie Fife, their first of the competition, did not even earn a losing bonus point but at least restored a hint of pride, while those closing minutes could yet prove decisive for their opponents' chances of reaching the quarter-finals for the 13th time in 14 years.

Munster had arrived looking for the four-try win that would give them a crucial advantage over neighbours Leinster in the race for one of the best runners-up spots that will make either of these champion sides the most dangerous of opponents for one of the top seeds.

They looked poised to do it, too, with the match following a near identical pattern to the meeting of these teams in Limerick when Munster failed to score a try in the first half then went deep into the second before crossing the line to open the floodgates.

However after Greig Laidlaw, Edinburgh's captain, returned from a spell in the sin bin it was his side that dominated the closing stages.

Where Edinburgh had trailed 6-0 at half-time in Limerick Laidlaw had got them on the scoreboard in the opening half, but his penalty only kept them within nine points, opposite number Ronan O'Gara having hit the target four times.

That was almost entirely down to his side's scrummage domination, Brendan Botha taking full advantage of the late introduction to the Edinburgh side of novice prop Robin Hislop following Allan Jacobsen's withdrawal due to a calf injury.

The first try they needed arrived on 53 minutes after Conor Murray made what looked, even with advantage being played, an odd decision to chip the ball over the top with his forwards dominating at a five-metre scrummage.

It should have been relatively easy for Edinburgh to defend compared, at least, to holding Munster out at point blank range. However Laidlaw, one of the few who has looked to be giving his all this season, was the man who reacted and, as one of the smaller figures afield, could only flap at the ball with Keith Earls in close attendance.

The TV replay official then rather harshly deemed Laidlaw to have deliberately knocked the ball out of play – his sin-binning depriving his team of their most inspirational figure.

Munster opted to scrummage and Edinburgh illegally disrupted their bid to drive over, resulting in the award of a penalty try.

The Irish side may bear little resemblance to that which won this tournament twice in three years – Doug Howlett, the captain, O'Gara and Donncha O'Callaghan the only survivors of the XV that started the second of those finals in 2008 – but they still know how to go for the jugular at the first scent of blood.

By the time Edinburgh's captain had returned his men had conceded another try. Murray this time made the right decision when, constant probing having eventually resulted in James Downey getting in close, the scrum-half realised that his strength could get him to the line.

The question was, then, whether Laidlaw could help Edinburgh show they had at least improved sufficiently in terms of attitude since visiting Limerick to avoid the late capitulation which, that day in October, let Munster claim an unlikely four-try bonus point.

They answered with query that late rally, Matt Scott's power, pace and footwork producing the break that set up Fife's first before his former Currie team-mate then broke a couple of tackles to score his second.

It was much too little, much too late, but at least meant they may have some sort of influence on this season's quarter-finals, even if it is only dragging one of their Pro12 rivals out of contention with them.

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