VIDEO: Munster to face Leinster in semis
PRO14 REPORT: Munster soared into the Pro14 semifinals with a 49-12 victory against 13-man Connacht to set-up a last-four encounter against fierce rivals Leinster.
The visitors had debutant Abraham Papali’i and Shane Delahunt sent off in the first half and were powerless to stop Munster running in seven tries.
Chris Cloete and a penalty try helped Munster go 14-0 up before Connacht’s two red cards, while Jeremy Loughman, Tadhg Beirne, Andrew Conway (2) and James Cronin also dotted down.
Following Scarlets commanding victory against Dragons on Saturday, Munster knew they needed just a point to book their place in another semifinal.
And they burst out of the blocks with plenty of intensity, scoring the first try less than eight minutes in through Cloete off the back of a rolling maul.
By that point, Conor Oliver was already in the bin for Connacht and the hosts cashed in on their numerical advantage by forcing a penalty try with a scrum five metres out.
That advantage became permanent mid-way through the half when Papali’i was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Conor Murray, while Delahunt was shown red ten minutes later for making contact with the neck.
Munster grabbed a third try shortly after through prop Loughman, with JJ Hanrahan remaining perfect off the tee to steer Munster 21-0 ahead.
To their credit, Connacht plugged away before the break and a series of Munster penalties resulted in a Beirne yellow card and try for Ireland international Bundee Aki.
Connacht carried that momentum into the second half and almost snagged a second, only to falter five-metres out before Munster cut loose with three tries in five minutes.
Beirne – back on the field after his sin-bin – burst through an open gap from 20 metres out, before Chris Farrell and Damian de Allende combined brilliantly to set up Conway.
The winger added his second shortly after to make it 42-7, while replacement Cronin bundled his way over with ten minutes to go.
Jonny Murphy added a second for Connacht after a strong Aki run but the day belonged to Munster.
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— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) August 30, 2020
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – Tadhg Beirne
It was a superb return after an eight-month absence for influential lock Beirne, who scored one try and helped set up another.
He may have been sin-binned earlier in the game but the lock was a titan throughout and helped Munster bully Connacht’s pack.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Conway’s first try of the day was a thing of beauty and Munster fans were left salivating at the part played by their new centre combination, Damian de Allende and Chris Farrell.
The latter escaped down Connacht’s left, bulldozing through a tackle, before slipping the ball to Beirne, who then found De Allende.
The South Africa international twisted and turned his way through two more tackles and off-loaded for Conway to score.
Tries: Cloete, Loughman, Beirne, Conway 2, Cronin, Penalty try
Cons: Hanrahan 5, Scannell; a penalty try does not require a conversion
Tries: Aki, Murphy
Yellow cards: Conor Oliver (Connacht, 8), Peter O’Mahony (Munster, 40), Tadhg Beirne (Munster, 40)
Red cards: Abraham Papali’i (Connacht, 26), Shane Delahunt (Connacht, 35)
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Jack O’Sullivan
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Colm de Buitléar, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Abraham Papali’i, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux (c), 4 Niall Murray, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Conor Kenny, 18 Matthew Burke, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Seán Masterson, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Peter Robb, 23 Conor Dean
Referee: Frank Murphy
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Chris Busby
TMO: Olly Hodges