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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 23 May, 2018
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Murray double helps Munster end inter-pro woe in convincing 5-try win over Connacht

Returning from injury, Conor Oliver and Chris Farrell also impressed in the bonus-point win over Connacht.

Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster 39

Connacht 13

Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park

ON A BITTERLY cold night in Limerick, Munster went some way to heating up their form before the concluding rounds of the Champions Cup pool stages come in the weeks ahead.

Having stuttered through two seasonal inter-pro losses after Christmas, this clear-cut, five-try bonus-point victory over Connacht was a welcome salve that also marks their first win, at the fifth attempt, over an Irish rival this season.

In a week dominated by questions over Munster’s discipline, their first-half showing did little to dispel concerns as they fell foul of referee David Wilkinson’s raised arm eight times in the opening 40 minutes – two of which were sent through the posts by Jack Carty.

When they did settle in to a rhythm of possession though, Munster, complete with an array of their leading lights, were the more dangerous looking side. In particular, the returning Chris Farrell proved a thorn in Connacht’s side as he consistently slipped through for half breaks off short, sharp passes from Ian Keatley.

The big international centre’s efforts paved the way for the home side to take a 19th minute lead when lock Darren O’Shea kept momentum going with a quick pick-up to barge over the try-line.

Darren O'Shea scores his sides opening try despite Cillian Gallagher /1/2018 Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With Munster playing into a bitingly cold breeze, Connacht dominated the first-half territory too. Though it was only through Carty’s second and 24th minute penalties that they troubled the scoreboard. Keatley slotted one by way of response before the end of a disjointed first period to leave the interval scoreline at 10 – 6.

It was Connacht who showed the first flash of intent in the second period, but Jarrad Butler’s burst also brought the first of a run of Munster penalties that balanced up the discipline sheets.

Once on the right side of the referee, the hosts had full control of the contest. Keatley extended the advantage to seven points on 50 minutes. And three minutes later a kick of a different kind from the 10, a deft grubber in behind Tiernan O’Halloran, was dotted down by Andrew Conway,

And so, having slogged through the opening 40 minutes, Munster entered the final 15 minutes of the match with the bonus point and the win secured.

Conway and Keatley were at the heart of things for the third try too; a smooth set-play that put Rory Scannell as first-receiver and allowed Keatley angle away left to perfectly delay his pass to the charging Conway whose pass put Keith Earls galloping into the corner to finish.

Earls then felt the brunt of Quinn Roux’s frustration as the lock took a deserved sin-bin stint for a dump tackle on the wing. Munster immediately made hay with the man advantage, Conor Murray with a trademark poacher’s finish after his pack laid the groundwork.

As the replacements rolled on and the thinly spread crowd in Thomond began pondering their exit, Murray grabbed a second try before bowing out of the contest in the 70th minute.

CJ Stander loses the ball to Cillian Gallagher, Quinn Roux and Jarrad Butler Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Entering the closing minutes, Kieran Keane had emptied seven of his eight replacements from the bench. Shane Delahunt was left watching on as Tom McCartney continued about his business in spritely mood. The hooker got his rewards for the 80-minute effort too, getting on the end of an excellent Connacht move marked by a terrific offload from Cillian Gallagher.

The late consolation was as good as it got for Connacht.

Scorers

Munster

Tries: D O’Shea, A Conway, K Earls, C Murray (2)

Conversions: I Keatley (4/5)

Penalties: I Keatley (1/1)

Connacht

Tries: T McCartney

Conversions: C Ronaldson (1/1)

Penalties: J Carty (2/2)

Munster: Simon Zebo (Darren Sweetnam ’60), Andrew Conway. Chris Farrell (Bill Johnston ’64), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, Ian Keatley,. Conor Murray (Duncan Williams ’70): Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’51), Rhys Marshall (Mike Sherry ’60), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’51), Jean Kleyn (Robin Copeland ’66), Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver, CJ Stander

Replacements not used: Peter O’Mahony

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun (Darragh Leader ’62), Eoin Griffin, Pita Ahki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty (Craig Ronaldson ’67), Caolin Blade (James Mitchell ’67): Peter McCabe (Conan O’Donnell ’75), Tom McCartney, Conor Carey (Finlay Bealham ’57), Quinn Roux, James Cannon (Gavin Thornbury ’40), Cillian Gallagher, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Paul Boyle ’57).

Replacements not used: Shane Delahunt

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As it happened: Munster v Connacht, Pro14

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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