Celtic Cup Semi-Final: Sunday, May 8Leinster 17 Munster 23, Lansdowne RoadScorers: Leinster: Try: Girvan Dempsey; Pens: David Holwell 4Munster: Tries: Marcus Horan, Anthony Foley; Cons: Paul Burke 2; Pens: Burke 3
A windy Lansdowne Road witnessed a tale of two number 8s as Foley's late barge over ended 34-year-old stalwart Victor Costello's 11-year playing career with the men in blue.
With the Leinster careers of David Holwell, Shane Jennings and Aidan McCullen also cut short before the Cup decider, Gerry Murphy's men were left to rue two poor decisions by the Welsh team of officials in either half.
The first, which saw centre Shane Horgan harshly sin-binned for a ruck offence, swung the momentum of the opening half towards Munster and but for the defensive brilliance of Lions skipper Brian O'Driscoll, Anthony Horgan would have nabbed a second Munster try seconds before the interval.
The second decision had a greater affect on Leinster. Armed with a 17-16 lead and facing a Munster side minus sin-binned flanker Alan Quinlan, touch judge Richard Hughes picked out Holwell for an apparent knee-drop on Peter Stringer at a 75th-minute ruck.
The Kiwi - who had kicked four from five penalties in the first half - was wrongly red-carded by referee Nigel Whitehouse.
Television replays showed Holwell's challenge to be not worthy of a red card, but Munster did not mind. The men from south sensed victory and a converted try duly came as Foley crossed for the second successive game.
Paul Burke converted and although Leinster, inspired by substitutes Brian O'Meara and David Quinlan, making his 50th appearance, made a good stab at a backlash in the eight minutes of injury-time, Alan Gaffney's charges held on.
Wind-assisted, Costello and company began the game with a six-point buffer after Holwell had sliced over two lengthy penalties inside seven minutes.
Munster wasted little time in replying. On 9 minutes, Foley's quick tap set up field position near the Leinster posts and following an initial Burke snipe, prop Marcus Horan picked and drove over, punishing poor fringe defence from Malcolm O'Kelly.
Burke converted for the lead. Holwell again showed his kicking prowess from 49 metres when his 12th-minute penalty bounced up and over off the Munster crossbar.
He notched his fourth kick on the half-hour before right winger Horgan was unnecessarily binned for a ruck offence.
Leinster need not have worried - they shipped a Burke penalty on 33 minutes but defiant defence saw them hold on for a 12-10 lead at the break.
Two neat Burke penalties allowed Munster regain that lead in the second half's early stages. However the tie turned back in Leinster's favour on 52 minutes when Holwell linked with O'Driscoll to send Girvan Dempsey haring in at the right corner.
Dempsey's third try in three games, well-taken after the Ireland full-back handed off Burke, went unconverted at 17-16. And as is their wont, never-say-die Munster came back. Foley was on hand in his 140th provincial outing to duck under Des Dillon's challenge from a close-in ruck to end Leinster's proud 15-year unbeaten record against provincial opposition at headquarters.
Ironically, in a game billed as a showdown between the two province's 2005 Lions squad members, none of the nine New Zealand tourists on show scored.
The result - Munster's fourth victory over Leinster in five meetings - tees them up for a sweet send-off for departing coach Gaffney in next weekend's Lansdowne decider.
(15) Girvan Dempsey(14) Shane Horgan(13) Brian O'Driscoll(12) Gordon D'Arcy(11) Denis Hickie(10) David Holwell(9) Guy Easterby
Replacements used: Shane Jennings for Gleeson (45 mins), David Quinlan for Hickie, Aidan McCullen for Costello (both 72), Brian O'Meara for Easterby (82). Not used: David Blaney, Ricky Nebbett, Ben Gissing, Felipe Contepomi.
(15) Shaun Payne(14) John Kelly(13) Mike Mullins(12) Rob Henderson(11) Anthony Horgan(10) Paul Burke(9) Peter Stringer(1) Marcus Horan(2) Frank Sheahan(3) John Hayes(4) Donncha O'Callaghan(5) Paul O'Connell(6) Alan Quinlan(7) David Wallace(8) Anthony Foley (Capt)
Replacements: Denis Leamy for Wallace (65 mins), Gordon McIlwham for Hayes (73), Paul Devlin for Kelly (87). Not used: Jerry Flannery, Gordon McIlwham, Trevor Hogan, Mike Prendergast, Jeremy Manning.
Sin-bin: Shane Horgan (Leinster) (32 mins), Alan Quinlan (Munster) (69); Red card: David Holwell (Leinster) (75)
HT: Leinster 12 Munster 10; Attendance: 10,500Referee: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)