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'We got a bang on the nose': Connacht's second 40 frustrates Keane

Munster’s bonus point win left a sour taste for Connacht after their excellent performances in the seasonal derby series.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

THE FESTIVE FEELING created by Connacht through their pre-Christmas and New Year’s Day derby displays was replaced by something a little more tart as they head back into Challenge Cup mode.

Head coach Kieran Keane isn’t of the sunniest disposition even after victories, so after a 39 – 13 loss to Munster, he cut a was never likely to embody the joys of spring.

“We got a poor second tonight,” was the full extent of Keane’s opening appraisal of Munster’s five-try win.

It’s a succinct summation. Munster delivered four of their tries in that second 40-minute stint, pulling clear after the disjointed first half which owed much to Connacht’s success at the line-out and scrum.

“We probably got hurt by the yellow card,” Keane later adds, referencing Quinn Roux’s sin-binning for a dump tackle on Keith Earls.

“Well we did, didn’t we? With a 14-point break during the yellow, they opened us up. I think we got shocked by that a bit. Hadn’t really played a lot of rugby up until then which was hurting us in the first half and we weren’t building pressure there. It was a tough day for those young fellas.”

The Westerners will have been braced for a big ask from long before kick-off, going to Thomond Park five days after their tussle with Leinster and without their leading international talents – Ultan Dillane, Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion. Keane, however, is intent on limiting the impact of such personnel losses and keeping Connacht’s gameplan on track whoever is filling the jerseys.

“We were well and truly bullied around in a number of areas.

Their line-speed was certainly impressive… their breakdown work, they got penalised a bit for it, but they managed to do pretty well. Sometimes we did too, so… tit for tat.”

“We didn’t play much rugby in the first half, We played safe rugby and that’s not our style. It’s not what we want to do. We’re a bit disappointed by that first half, felt we could have done a lot better.”

He adds: ”it’s my first time here (in Thomond Park), I’m not fond of losing and certainly not (fond) of getting our pants pulled down as it felt like happened to us today.

“We’re always trying to do better and things won’t change. We’ll knuckle down, we’ll be a bit wounded by this, but it’ll bring some new life and we’ll have to treat it that way.”

In the short-term, the pain of those wounds will be channeled into Saturday’s Challenge Cup clash with Worcester Warriors, when Keane’s side can guarantee top spot in Pool 5 in Sixways with a match to spare.

Nigel Carolan and Kieran Keane Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The seven-day turnaround space for that fixture will be a welcome change of pace.

“It is a big ask,” Keane says of the need to play two inter-pro derbies in the space of five days, “particularly for us perhaps. We don’t quite have the depth of numbers other clubs do.

“But I’m not here to make excuses. We knew what was needed. We rotated our squad as best we could, had to take out some influential players and gave the opportunity to some young ones.

“Was it too big an ask? Ah, it’ll hold us in good stead on the positive side. But we got a bang on the nose tonight and we just have to recover from it as a lesson.”

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Sean Farrell

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