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Green giants! Connacht save their best for last in a historic win over Munster

It’s the first time in 29 years that Connacht have beaten Munster in Thomond Park.

John Muldoon and Sean O'Brien lead the celebrations at the final whistle. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Munster 12

Connacht 18

– John Fallon reports from Thomond Park

BUNDEE AKI SCORED the clinching try two minutes from time as Connacht won at Thomond Park for only the second time in history.

And their first win in the professional era at the Limerick was earned the hard way as they had captain John Muldoon binned and a controversial penalty try awarded against them in the final quarter.

But Pat Lam’s men, who never trailed, kept their nerve to stay top of the Pro12 table and end Munster’s 13-match winning run at the venue.

The victory sparked huge celebrations from the large travelling supporters in the crowd of 9,424 as Connacht made it seven wins from eight leagues this season.

The Connacht team sing the Fields of Athenry after the game Connacht sing the Fields of Athenry in the dressing room at full time. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht’s dominance in the opening half was evident in a tackle count of 120 for Munster and 25 for Pat Lam’s men.

But with 270 carries to Munster’s 105, and with Anthony Foley’s men guilty of a remarkable 22 tackles in the opening half, the surprise was that Connacht only led 10-5 at the break.

They dominated the opening quarter and deservedly led 10-0, with Craig Ronaldson edging them in front with a penalty after 12 minutes after Donnacha Ryan was penalised for a high tackle on Connacht out-half AJ MacGinty.

Munster did well to contain several Connacht forays but the pressure eventually told when Tiernan O’Halloran punished a sleepy defence to race through untouched to score after 18 minutes.

Referee Ben Whitehouse, perhaps incredulous with the ease in which O’Halloran raced through so easily, checked with the TMO before awarding the score which Ronaldson converted.

That stirred Munster into action and they went to the right corner with a couple of penalties.

And they were rewarded for their ambition when they got the drive on after a take by Jack O’Donoghue and hooker Niall Scannell got over for his first Munster try.

Keatley was unable to add the extras and it was Connacht who took charge again but they were unable to extend their lead.

Munster were more fired-up after the restart with the experience of Tomas O’Leary and Francis Saili making an impact.

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Bundee Aki scores his side's second try despite Andrew Conway Bundee Aki touches down for the winning try... Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Bundee Aki celebrates scoring a try with Jack Carty ... and celebrates with Jack Carty. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

But a decision to go to the left corner with a penalty from 30 metres backfired when Eoghan Masterson did enough to dispossess Donnacha Ryan in the lineout.

And Connacht made it a six-point swing when Ronaldson made no mistake with a penalty from 30 metres a minute later to lead 13-5 going into the final quarter.

It was then that the game erupted when Muldoon was binned for an early tackle on Andrew Conway after a break by former Connacht out-half Keatley.

Referee Ben Whitehouse consulted TMO Simon McDowell before binning Muldoon and awarding a penalty try, with Connacht claiming that scrum-half Kieran Marmion was last man back and could have tackled Conway.

But Whitehouse awarded the score which Keatley converted to make it 13-12.

Then Connacht blew a glorious chance to increase their lead when Ronaldson missed a penalty from 30 metres.

But it merely delayed the celebrations as Robbie Henshaw created the opening which saw man of the match Aki score in the left corner despite the efforts of Conway and claim a famous win.

Munster Tries: N Scannell, Penalty try; Conversion: I Keatley

Connacht Tries: T O’Halloran, B Aki; Conversion: C Ronaldson; Penalties: C Ronaldson (2)

Munster

Andrew Conway; Gerhard van den Heever (Denis Hurley ’51), Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; Ian Keatley, Tomas O’Leary (Duncan Williams ’66); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne ’62), Niall Scannell, BJ Botha (John Ryan ’40); Donnacha Ryan (Dave Foley ’57), Mark Chisholm; CJ Stander (Capt), Jack O’Donoghue, Robin Copeland.

Connacht

Robbie Henshaw; Tieran O’Halloran (Darragh Leader ’69), Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Matt Healy; AJ MacGinty (Jack Carty ’46), Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley (Ronan Loughney ’55), Shane Delahunt (Dave Heffernan ’62), Nathan White (Finlay Bealham ’59); Ultan Dillane (George Naoupu ’64), Aly Muldowney; John Muldoon (Capt), James Connolly, Eoghan Masterson (Sean O’Brien ’57).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).

Here’s the sensational finish that gave Connacht their first Thomond victory since 1986

As it happened: Munster v Connacht, Guinness PRO12

About the author:

John Fallon

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