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Munster peaking at the right time

REACTION: With just one round of matches to go, reigning United Rugby Championship champions Munster have gone top of the table for the first time this season – talk about timing your run to perfection!

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They took over as league leaders on Friday night with a 29-26 bonus point victory away to Edinburgh, leaving coach Graham Rowntree ‘dead proud’ of his players.

They were to hold on to top spot as both Glasgow Warriors and Leinster went down to defeats, losing to the Lions and Ulster respectively.

Glasgow have slipped from first to fourth following their 21-44 loss in Johannesburg, while the Bulls are now up to second after a 56-35 victory over Benetton at Loftus Versfeld.

With the Stormers beating Connacht 16-12 in Galway, six teams are now through to the play-offs.

Those are Munster, Bulls, Leinster, Glasgow, Stormers and Ulster, with the top four assured home ties in the quarterfinals.

You’ve then got five teams – Edinburgh, Benetton, Lions, Connacht and Ospreys – battling it out for the two remaining spots, with the first two of those meeting in Treviso in Round 18. The losing bonus points they both picked up at the weekend could yet prove decisive.

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Munster made it eight league wins on the trot with their hard-fought triumph at a sold-out Edinburgh Stadium.

They trailed Edinburgh 12-16 at the break and then had Conor Murray sin-binned midway through the second half with the game hanging in the balance.

But they came through to claim the spoils with 14-point flyhalf Jack Crowley landing the match-winning penalty 11 minutes from time as he added to a brace of tries from centre Antoine Frisch.

Giving his assessment on a pulsating encounter, coach Rowntree said: “It was all being thrown against us in that game.

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“But we kept going. We found a way to stick to our guns and found a way to win.

“We managed the sin bin well, which was important.

“I am dead proud of the lads. We found a way to win a game where, at points, everything was going against us.

“When it gets to the business end of a match, the lads just know to stick to the plan. We have got the fitness, we have been here before.

“It gives you belief, particularly when you are winning away from home. It’s not a false belief when you go to places and win. You get match-hardened. We had it in the run-in last year which we can reference now as a squad. It gives you belief.

“But as a typical boring old Leicester forward, it’s game by game.”

The next game is home to Richie Murphy’s Ulster who will be suitably buoyed by their 23-21 win over Leinster.

“They will be gunning for us,” said Rowntree.

“I am chuffed for Richie getting the gig there. He has got them playing with a lot of clarity and they are always a handful at Thomond Park.”

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