THAT target of finishing third in Conference B in the PRO14 – and therefore securing Champions Cup qualification for next season – slipped further out of reach for Edinburgh last night, as they battled hard against the opposition and the elements but could not control the game for long enough periods to break down their opponents.

For Munster, this was another assured step towards finishing top of Conference B and securing a Grand Final appearance against the winners of Conference A on March 27.

They will, perhaps, regret not picking up a four-try bonus point, but their commanding position in the table, 14 points ahead of second-place Connacht with only four games left, means that should not be a factor in the final shakedown

Edinburgh, meanwhile, are now 11 points adrift of third- placed Scarlets, and although they have two games in hand, their destiny is no longer in their own hands – they need their Welsh rivals to slip up.

The wind and rain swirled around the Murrayfield bowl at kick-off, creating treacherous conditions for both sides, but it initially favoured Edinburgh and with Munster coughing up four penalties in the first eight minutes, the home side took the early initiative when Jaco van der Walt fired home three points from an offside in front of the posts.

The momentum of the game then shifted when Edinburgh gave away three penalties in quick order, with JJ Hanrahan squaring it after Dave Cherry was called for hands in the ruck on his own 22.

Edinburgh rediscovered their composure and a clever move off the back of scrum saw Eroni Sau split Munster open, and Andrew Davidson powered over the line but could not get the ball down.

The hosts kept the pressure on from the scrum five, but Munster held strong, then pulverised Edinburgh’s scrum following a Pierre Schoeman knock-on. It was the turning point in the match.

The visitors dominated every area of the game in the remainder of the first half, during which time they helped themselves to two converted tries to establish a 14-point advantage which the hosts were always going to struggle to claw back.

Edinburgh rode their luck when Andrew Conway charged down Jack Blain on his own line with the ball ricocheting like a bullet straight into Henry Pyrgos’ arms, who showed good comp-osure when clearing to halfway.

Munster No8 Gavin Coombes was held up over the line a few minutes later after a powerful line-out drive, but the visitors were not to be denied and their pack continued to turn the screw, with blindside Jack O’Donoghue the man who eventually made it over for the score, which Hanrahan from wide on the left for good measure.

Van der Walt sent the re-start straight out, which immediately put Edinburgh’s creaking scrum back under pressure on halfway. Munster squeezed the penalty and kicked to the 22, then Davidson was penalised for pulling his opposite number down at the line-out, and Hanrahan kicked to five yards from the line. With a grinding inevitability, the men in red rumbled closer and closer, until scrum-half Craig Casey spotted a chink of light at the side of ruck and nipped in for try number two.

The heavens opened at half time and having taken their time to re-emerge from their changing room, it was the hosts who started the second period in better style, with Pyrgos angling a brilliant low kick into the corner, and Viliame Mata burrowing over.

Van der Walt added the conversion, and it was suddenly a seven-point game. As has become customary for Scottish teams, Edinburgh handed the initiative back to their opponents almost immediately, when Damien Hoyland kicked a clearance from just outside his own 22 out on the full, and Munster nearly took full advantage when a slick set-move from the line-out created an overlap on the right, but Chris Farrell could not quite get the killer pass away to Conway.

It proved to be a temporary reprieve, with Coombes succeeding where he had come up just short in the first half, by powering over the line for his seventh try of the season after another telling incursion from the base by Casey. This time, Hanrahan’s conversion hit the upright.

To their credit, Edinburgh weren’t ready to let go of this game quite yet and set up camp under the shadow of Munster’s posts, picking up a succession of scrum penalties, but they couldn’t make it count, and when South African recruit Boan Venter was sent on at loose-head, his first involvement was to give away a crucial free-kick at the next scrum which allowed Munster to activate the pressure release valve.

With the game in overtime, Davidson was treated on the field for several minutes before being stretchered off.

Scorers, Edinburgh – Try: Mata; Con: Van der Walt; Pen: Van der Walt.

Munster – Tries: O’Donoghue, Casey, Coombes; Cons: Casey 2; Pen: Hanrahan.

Edinburgh: D Hoyland; J Blain, M Bennett (M Currie 73), C Dean, E Sau; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos (C Shiel 58); P Schoeman (B Venter 68), D Cherry (M Willemse 64), L Atalifo (M McCallum 52), A Davidson (N Haining 80), G Gilchrist, N Haining (M Bradbury 56), L Crosbie, (A Miller 68), V Mata.

Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, D de Allende (R Scannell 73), S Daly; J Hanrahan (B Healy 68), C Casey (N McCarthy 75); J Cronin (J Loughman 66), N Scannell (K O’Byrne 67), J Ryan (S Archer 66), J Kleyn, W Holland (F Wycherley 66), J O’Donoghue, C Cloete ( O’Sullivan 66), G Coombes (C Cloete 80).

Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).