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Bok's try helps Munster boost top-four bid

MATCH REPORT: Munster are within reach of a home quarterfinal in the United Rugby Championship following a runaway 47-12 derby win over Connacht at Thomond Park.

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A swamped Connacht had to make 81 tackles during the opening 24 minutes, but only trailed 7-14 at half-time thanks to a late Byron Ralston try.

Munster profited from Shamus Hurley-Langton’s yellow card to cross through RG Snyman and Calvin Nash, and Alex Nankivell’s sucker-punch 45th-minute effort restored their 14-point lead.

Replacement Conor Murray claimed a 64th-minute bonus point for Graham Rowntree’s side, before a second Ralston try was cancelled out by closing scores from Joey Carbery, Tom Ahern, and Shane Daly.

Despite conceding some early turnovers to Hurley-Langton and Peter Dooley, in-form Munster duly advanced downfield via penalties won in the scrum and at maul time.

Dooley and Oisín Dowling earned the defensive plaudits as Munster were kept scoreless but the pressure told in the 19th minute as, just after Hurley-Langton’s yellow for offside, Snyman stretched out for the line with TMO Mark Patton confirming the grounding. Jack Crowley made it a full seven-pointer.

The defending champions doubled their lead with a slick first-phase score when Nash got outside Tom Farrell and backed his pace to score from 40 metres out.

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Connacht protested the wing’s one-handed finish, leading to Crowley’s missed conversion being retaken. He was successful with his second attempt from out wide.

However, the westerners hit back before the break. Having turned down a kickable penalty, Jack Carty’s superb skip pass put Ralston over in the left corner.

Carty followed up with the conversion, halving the deficit, but his side failed to take advantage of a spritely start to the second period, including a brilliant run from Farrell.

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Instead, when the ball went loose between Bundee Aki and Hurley-Langton, Nankivell reacted quickest to raid over from 65 metres out. Crowley converted for a 21-7 advantage.

After Hurley-Langton had a try ruled out for a foot in touch, Murray was sent clear by Simon Zebo with Munster’s sharp handling a key factor again. Carbery converted.

Another pinpoint lofted pass from Carty put Ralston over on the left, yet Connacht struggled thereafter.

Slick hands from Munster’s midfield played in Carbery, Ahern swatted Farrell aside for a romp to the left corner, and Daly touched down during the final play.

Player of the Match

Playing alongside Sean O’Brien in a new-look Munster centre pairing, Alex Nankivell turned in a rock-solid performance. As the play-offs come into view, he took his try very well and had a crucial hand in a couple of other scores. The midfield duo were also able to keep Bundee Aki relatively quiet.

Play of the Match

It all began with a midfield offload from Peter O’Mahony. Antoine Frisch and Alex Nankivell then combined, with the latter’s switch play releasing Simon Zebo past halfway. He evaded Caolin Blade’s tackle and provided a timely pass for the trailing Conor Murray to finish off from 25 metres out.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Snyman, Nash, Nankivell, Murray, Carbery, Ahern, Daly
Cons: Crowley 6

For Connacht:
Tries: Ralston 2
Con: Carty

Yellow card: Shamus Hurley-Langton (Connacht, 18)

Teams

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Seán O’Brien, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Alex Kendellen, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Tadhg Beirne (captain), 4 RG Snyman, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Eoghan Clarke, 17 Mark Donnelly, 18 Oli Jager, 19 Tom Ahern, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Antoine Frisch.

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Shane Jennings, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Byron Ralston, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Matthew Devine, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Shamus Hurley-Langton, 5 Oisín Dowling, 4 Joe Joyce, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin, 17 Jordan Duggan, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Sean Jansen, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Cathal Forde, 23 Jarrad Butler.

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Martin (Ireland) and Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Mark Patton (Ireland)

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