"THAT'S the easy bit done," reflected Richard Cockerill as Edinburgh duly bowed out of the Guinness PRO14 at the first knockout stage after a record-breaking league season. The tough part will be to do it again without the element of surprise, while also competing in the European Champions Cup and even more intense opposition in this tournament.

"It’s always easy when you turn up and no-one treats you with respect," he said. "It’s about when we come back [for pre-season training] in four weeks and teams like Munster know what’s coming – that makes it doubly hard. I wouldn’t say this has been easy but it is probably the easiest part.

"Let’s get it into context, Ulster have had a poor year for whatever reason; they will get a new coach and money to spend. Ospreys will be better. Every year things change.

"We have to try and qualify for Europe again while playing in Europe where the attrition is doubly hard. I hope we pick some big teams so we go to Europe and we learn again how to play these games because the only way to do it is to go out there and do it."

In many ways, the play-off at Thomond Park was both ideal preparation for next season and a harsh lesson on where the developments have to happen.

It was a match they dominated for long periods, winning every battle bar two; Munster got more turnovers, many in key positions, and they scored more points.

The brutal reality is that Edinburgh created four scoring chances and managed to convert one – Nathan Fowles getting it to add to three penalties kicked by Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.

In contrast, Munster created one try chance – a piece of inspiration by Simon Zebo, the full-back who will be at Racing 92 next season putting Keith Earles over – and scored twice. The other try was the almost routine gift with a line-out going awry and Rhys Marshall, the hooker, barging his way to the line.

That was the story of the match, Edinburgh played most of the rugby but, in a game of tiny margins, made the mistakes that cost them the result.

"I said from the start, we just wanted to earn the respect of the competition. And we’ve done that. Munster are a great side, Thomond Park's a really hard place to come. Good sides have come here and left with a lot worse defeats. We just have to build on this," said Cockerill.

"We have to redouble our efforts and be better again next year. I thought we scored a pretty good try and there were other opportunities. We broke them three times in that first half but we didn’t convert, we turned the ball over.

"There were opportunities to win the game, as simple as that. In those big games, when the margins are going to be tight, those are the points of difference."


Munster: Tries: Marshal (8), Earls (43). Cons: Hanrahan 2. Pens: Hanrahan 2 (50, 72)

Edinburgh: Try: Fowles(58).Con: van der Walt. Pens: Hidalgo-Clyne 3 (19, 24, 50) Scoring sequence (Munster first): 7-0, 7-3, 7-6 (half time), 14-6, 17-6, 17-9, 17-16, 20-16

Munster: S Zebo; A Conway (D Sweetnam, 30-39, 41), S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray; J Cronin (D Kilcoyne, 60), R Marshall (M Sherry, 69), S Archer (C Parker, 16), J Kleyn (G Grobler, 50), B Holland, P O’Mahony (C), J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (R Copeland, 60).

Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; D Fife, M Bennett, C Dean (J Johnstone, 75), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (D Weir, 63), S Hidalgo-Clyne (N Fowles, 55); J Lay (A Dell, 51), S McInally (C) (N Cochrane, 69), S Berghan (WP Nel, 50), B Toolis, G Gilchrist, L Carmichael, M Bradbury, V Mata (C du Preez, 60).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Attendance: 10,205