Munster secure hard-fought win over Connacht
MATCH REPORT: Munster ended a run of five interprovincial derby defeats as their pack powered them to a 24-17 bonus-point victory over Connacht at Thomond Park.
Picking up much-needed United Rugby Championship points, Munster’s maul delivered tries for Roman Salanoa and Niall Scannell, while fellow front-row John Ryan also burrowed over.
Wind-backed Connacht were pegged back to 10 points apiece by half-time, their lone try an intercept effort from Byron Ralston with Jack Carty kicking the other points.
However, Munster built on unconverted scores from Calvin Nash and Salanoa and deservedly took the spoils, despite Kieran Marmion’s closing score for Connacht.
Captain Carty split the posts with a ninth-minute penalty for the eager visitors, who had lost only one of their last four clashes with Munster.
Barely two minutes later, Nash struck for an unconverted try, Craig Casey breaking from a scrum and feeding the Ireland ‘A’ wing for a pacy finish in the right corner.
The westerners responded to a turnover with one of their own – Bundee Aki and Dave Heffernan held up Nash – and Tom Farrell launched a big break downfield.
Sniffing out an opportunist try, Ralston picked off a Mike Haley pass just as he attempted to tidy up from a Caolin Blade kick. Carty converted for a 10-5 lead.
Four minutes before the interval, Munster patiently set up Salanoa to cross from a well-controlled drive. Joey Carbery missed his second conversion from out wide.
However, it was Carbery’s weaving break that lit the touch paper for Munster’s improved second-half performance, although they had to do it without injured captain Peter O’Mahony.
Connacht fullback John Porch was sin-binned for taking out Carbery, and Munster were unable to convert as Casey was held up and a Jack Crowley-Tadhg Beirne break also went unrewarded.
It took Ryan to drive low for the line in the 58th minute, supported by Scannell. A well-worked maul sent Scannell himself over in the 65th minute with Carbery converting for a second time.
Edwin Edogbo was pinged for obstruction, robbing Munster of a possible fifth try, and a late Connacht rally saw Marmion dive over from a 73rd-minute ruck.
Player of the Match
Munster second row Beirne claimed the honours, being his usual disruptive self in defence and popping up with some telling contributions in attack.
John Hodnett also stood out, particularly for his carrying in the first half. Connacht’s front row deserve credit for their scrummaging but their maul defence faltered at crucial stages.
Play of the Match
It was a night of forwards-dominated rugby, some well-taken scores from close range proving vital in deciding the outcome.
Munster were that bit more clinical when within sight of the line, with Casey’s pace off the mark in the 11th minute and well-timed pass allowing Nash to get outside former Munster winger Alex Wootton and dot down.
Tries: Nash, Salanoa, Ryan, Scannell
Cons: Carbery 2
Tries: Ralston, Marmion
Cons: Carty 2
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Antoine Frisch, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Alex Kendellen, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Roman Salanoa, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Josh Wycherley.
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 John Ryan, 19 Edwin Edogbo, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Gavin Coombes.
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Byron Ralston, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty (captain), 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Cian Prendergast, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Josh Murphy, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Oisín Dowling, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Paul Boyle.
Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Jonny Erskine (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)