Two-time European Cup winners Munster achieved their aim of securing a home quarter-final in this season’s competition on Sunday as they hammered hapless Scottish outfit Edinburgh 38-6 in Limerick, Ireland.
Munster — who ran in six tries to their opponents’ none — will host four-time winners Toulouse in what will be their 16th successive quarter-final of European rugby’s premier club competition.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh suffered another blow as their hopes of securing a consolation place in the Challenge Cup were also shattered as Gloucester’s impressive bonus point 36-18 defeat of French side Perpignan in France saw them leapfrog the Scottish side in Pool 6.
Toulouse’s slim hopes of having a home quarter-final disappeared later on Sunday when last season’s beaten finalists, Clermont, got the bonus point win they required as they ran out 28-3 winners over fellow French outfit Racing-Metro.
It was their 71st successive victory on their home ground and they will welcome English side Leicester in the last eight in April. Rory Laidlaw had an early chance to put Edinburgh ahead, but he dragged his penalty wide of the posts.
He made no mistake with a second chance a couple of minutes later, but Munster hit back immediately with a stunning try in the eighth minute.
The try stemmed from Paul O’Connell’s brilliant take from the kick-off and after the ball passed through several pairs of hands, it came back to man of the match No. 8 James Coughlan out on the right wing and he cut in to beat several Edinburgh players and touch down.
Fly-half Ian Keatley missed the conversion.
Munster had their tails up and a period of concerted pressure resulted in their second try as scrum-half Conor Murray fed Johne Murphy who stepped back inside and easily beat a feeble effort at a tackle by No. 8 David Denton to touch down for his 11th try in 36 appearances in the competition.
Keatley converted from in front of the posts for 12-3.
However, the hosts suffered a blow in the 25th minute as experienced Irish back Keith Earls had to be taken off, head bandaged and grimacing in pain as he limped off, to be replaced by Simon Zebo.
While Munster produced the attacking play, Edinburgh still stayed in touch as Laidlaw converted a penalty in the 28th minute to make it 12-6.
Edinburgh managed to put several phases of attacking play together and were on Munster’s line before the hosts turned over the ball and Zebo cleared the danger.
The visitors were reduced to 14 on the stroke of half-time as flanker Cornell du Preez was sin-binned for reckless play as he charged into a ruck head first connecting with O’Connell’s head, which required the Irish rugby great to undergo several minutes of medical attention.
Munster pressed home that advantage in the 44th minute as Murray went over for their third try after Tommy O’Donnell had made the decisive break — with Coughlan also involved in the move — and Keatley converted for 19-6 and just a try away from the crucial bonus point.
They deservedly got it in the 57th minute as remorseless pressure saw captain and Irish flanker Peter O’Mahony go over for the fourth try despite the close attention of Denton — Keatley converted for 26-6.
The hosts did not take their foot off the pedal despite getting the fourth try and Zebo, who has missed a large part of the season due to injury, scored the simplest of tries in the 67th minute, touching down in the far left corner after being set up by Murray — Keatley missed the conversion to leave it at 31-6.
Edinburgh’s disarray was epitomized in the 75th minute as Wayne Barnes once again wielded the yellow card, this time at replacement prop Geoff Cross — seconds later Zebo fed fullback Felix Jones and his momentum took him over the tryline for their sixth try. Keatley converted to make it 38-6.
In Sunday’s other game, the Harlequins beat the Scarlets 20-22.