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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 20 February, 2019
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Before we say goodbye to 2016, we’ve got one more treat on this busy New Year’s Eve on the rugby front with Connacht welcoming Munster to the Sportsground.

Can Pat Lam’s men round off a memorable year with another big win or will Munster’s recent momentum continue as they look to consolidate their position at the top of the Pro12?

It’s a big one in Galway and kick-off is at 5.30pm.

A sell-out crowd expected this evening.

Rassie Erasmus before the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

A view of a Guinness PRO12 flag before the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A view of the Sportsground ahead of the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Some late changes to the Connacht team with John Muldoon and Sean O’Brien both passed fit for this evening’s game.

Muldoon comes in for Naulia Dawai at number eight while O’Brien is drafted onto the bench in place of Danny Qualter.

Connacht:

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Niyi Adeolokun
13. Rory Parata
12. Peter Robb
11. Matt Healy
10. Jack Carty
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Finlay Bealham
4. Quinn Roux
5. James Cannon
6. Nepia Fox-Matamua
7. Jake Heenan
8. John Muldoon (captain)

Replacements:

16. Dave Heffernan
17. JP Cooney
18. John Andress
19. Lewis Stevenson
20. Sean O’Brien
21. Caolin Blade
22. Ciaran Gaffney
23. Naulia Dawai

And this is how Munster will line-up.

One change, but it’s just positional, from the team named yesterday with Keith Earls and Ronan O’Mahony switching wings.

Munster:

15. Andrew Conway
14. Keith Earls
13. Francis Saili
12. Dan Goggin
11. Ronan O’Mahony
10. Ian Keatley
9. Duncan Williams

1. James Cronin
2. Rhys Marshall
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Dave Foley
6. Billy Holland (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. Jack O’Donoghue

Replacements:

16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Dave Kilcoyne
18. Thomas Du Toit
19. Robin Copeland
20. Conor Oliver
21. Te Aihe Toma
22. Rory Scannell
23. Jaco Taute

Not long until kick-off now.

Which way do you see this one going? If you want to join in the conversation, tweet us: @rugby_ie and @The42_ie, e-mail ryan@the42.ie or post your thoughts in the comments section below.

It’s a busy day of Pro12 action.

  • Zebre 19-24 Edinburgh
  • Treviso 28-35 Glasgow Warriors
  • Leinster 22-7 Ulster
  • Scarlets v Cardiff Blues (Sunday)
  • Dragons v Ospreys (Sunday)
  • Connacht v Munster (5.30pm)

Right on cue, the heavens have opened in Galway as Munster make their way from the sanctuary of the dressing rooms. A strong wind blowing across the ground too for this New Year’s Eve clash.

2Mins

Strong start from Munster as they look to set an early marker. Connacht’s defence really stretched already as the visitors go through the phases.

3Mins

So close! A period of sustained pressure sees Billy Holland burst through the wall of green shirts and while Connacht scramble back to pull him down just short, they’re penalised for not rolling away. Keatley has called for the tee.

4Mins

Penalty! Connacht 0-3 Munster (Keatley)

The wind is really blowing out there but Keatley drives his first attempt between the posts to give Munster the perfect start. Connacht yet to get their hands on the ball.

5Mins

Really encouraging signs for Munster during the opening exchanges. They’ve started with real intent and earn the scrum after a Connacht handling error.

Saili gets ball in hand and drives a low kick into touch on this near side to put Connacht under more early pressure.

7Mins

Saili already heavily involved on his comeback from injury and he floats an inviting pass out to the right for O’Mahony, who kicks on but he put too much behind that and it trickles behind and out.

Carty to restart but Munster come straight back at them.

10Mins

Much better from Connacht as they turn over the ball and look to pounce. Marmion doesn’t give up on a kick chase and he dives at the feet of Keatley, who was shepherding the ball out of play.

The referee goes upstairs to have a look but the TMO correctly calls ‘no try’ and we’re going back for a Munster scrum.

14Mins

Connacht concede another penalty, this time for driving up at the scrum and Keatley finds touch on this near side.

The move breaks down in midfield, however, and tempers fray when Saili clashes with Peter Robb. The referee has to step in and just calm things down after both sets of players got involved.

15Mins

That’s poor from Carty as he misses touch with the penalty but he has the chance to redeem himself minutes later when Munster are pinged for a high tackle. A scrappy start to the game.

18Mins

Conditions are far from ideal and certainly the wind and rain is having a real impact with both sides guilty of handling errors and unforced errors.

As we restart with a scrum, Connacht get a good shove on and win the penalty with Munster pinged for collapsing the set-piece. Carty has the chance to level the scores.

19Mins

But the out-half misses his first attempt and Munster’s early 3-0 lead remains intact.

24Mins

Great work from Cronin to turn it over but Munster then lose possession a couple of phases later.

Connacht look to break and Marmion’s grubber kick has Adeolokun interested. The winger makes up good ground to haul Conway into touch and the hosts have the lineout deep in Munster territory.

25Mins

Roux spills the lineout but Connacht come again through Marmion. Munster’s defence standing firm so far as the weather deteriorates further.

27Mins

And Connacht are left frustrated again as Munster get their hands on the ball and Keatley hacks clear. It’s really turning into a forwards battle now — one for the purists.

30Mins

Sean O’Brien, a late inclusion on the Connacht bench, is into the action after 29 minutes with Nepia Fox-Matamua forced off through injury. Pretty uninspiring stuff so far.

31Mins

Penalty! Connacht 3-3 Munster (Carty)

Connacht win the penalty at scrum time and Carty makes no mistake with his second effort to level proceedings after half an hour.

34Mins

Connacht are enjoying the better of the set-piece so far and this time they win a free-kick from referee Dudley Phillips.

38Mins

McCartney penalised for coming in from the side and Munster have the chance to regain the lead just before half-time. This isn’t an easy kick for Keatley.

40Mins

PENALTY! Connacht 3-6 Munster (Keatley)

The wind does its best to hold that one up but Keatley strikes it cleanly enough to add three points to his and Munster’s tally.

Flag 41Mins

Teams are back out for the second half. John Muldoon calls the Connacht players into a huddle on halfway before Jack Carty restarts proceedings.

42Mins

Blistering start from Munster as Duncan Williams finds a hole in the Connacht defence and breaks free. He offloads for the supporting Tommy O’Donnell and suddenly the visitors are up into the Connacht half.

But, as we’ve seen on more than one occasion this evening, a handling error stops Munster in their tracks and then the western province win the scrum penalty.

43Mins

Munster win another penalty and Keatley tries his luck — but he’s way short and we restart with a 22 drop-out.

48Mins

Ian Keatley with Jake Heenan Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Niyi Adeolokun and Tiernan O’Halloran in the rain Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ian Keatley kicks a penalty Source: James Crombie/INPHO

50Mins

Cronin is penalised at the scrum again and Carty has the chance to level the scores again.

51Mins

Penalty! Connacht 6-6 Munster (Carty)

And that he does from close range. We’re all-square after 51 minutes.

Change for Munster, meanwhile, with Du Toit on for Archer.

53Mins

Penalty count rising for both teams as Cronin goes in high on Marmion. No further punishment but that’s the prop’s last involvement of the evening as he’s replaced by Dave Kilcoyne.

55Mins

Connacht win the penalty and Carty kicks for the corner. The momentum is with the home side now as they look to hit the front for the first time this evening. Marmion controlling the rolling maul.

58Mins

And they make a mess of that. Buckley has to go in a play scrum half and McCartney fumbles, allowing Munster to steal it.

Keatley boldly goes cross-field and he finds Conway, who scythes through the Connacht defence in midfield.

A frenetic passage of play ends with Marmion being bundled into touch metres from his own line. Brilliant position this for Munster.

58Mins

Despite the conditions, the game has come to life and it’s now end-to-end.

Flag 59Mins

TRY! Connacht 6-13 Munster (Marshall)

Classic Munster. The rolling maul from the lineout is unstoppable and it’s Rhys Marshall who gets the ball down. Keatley nails the conversion.

59Mins

Tommy O'Donnell tackled by Tiernan O'Halloran and Peter Robb Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Jack O'Donoghue with Tom McCartney Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Rory Parata and Denis Buckley tackle Tommy O'Donnell Source: James Crombie/INPHO

65Mins

Matt Healy is given some space on the wing but O’Mahony makes good ground to get back and make the tackle to stop his counterpart in his tracks. The ball spills loose and the chance is gone. 25 minutes to go at a sodden Sportsground.

66Mins

Rhys Marshall’s try separates the teams at the moment.

Dudley Phillips awards a try to Munster after Rhys Marshall got over the line Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

73Mins

Not good news for Tommy O’Donnell as he hobbles off with the help of two doctors. Robin Copeland on for the final 10 minutes while Conor Oliver has replaced Dave Foley.

Changes for Connacht, too.

72Mins

Yellow card! Munster will play out the last eight minutes a man down after Dave Kilcoyne was sent to the bin.

74Mins

Connacht win another scrum penalty and kick for touch. Last chance saloon now for the home side.

75Mins

After winning the lineout, Connacht set it up in midfield but 14-man Munster aren’t budging. Through the phases but they’re not getting anywhere.

76Mins

Advantage Connacht on Carty goes cross-field for Healy but the winger can’t gather the ball with O’Mahony scrambling. We’re going back for the penalty, with Carty to have a shot at goal.

77Mins

Penalty! Connacht 9-16 Munster (Carty)

No mistake from the out-half and now Connacht have at least a losing bonus point. Three minutes remaining in Galway.

78Mins

Brilliant restart from Keatley as he finds touch on the far side after noticing nobody was at home for Connacht. Now the home side have to start from their own 22.

80Mins

Munster managing these last few minutes brilliantly. Clock running down with a number of reset scrums and we’re not into last-play territory. Connacht will have to run it from their own line if they are to salvage a draw.

80Mins

Tempers fray again and the referee has to intervene before things get too heated. Connacht win the penalty and they tap and go. This is the last play of the game.

83Mins

Munster down to 13 men! Williams is sent to the bin by the referee.

85Mins

A frenetic finish to the game in Galway as Munster hold on for an important victory which sees their lead at the top of the Pro12 stretch to five points.

Full report from the Sportsground here.

86Mins

That’s all for our coverage of today’s back-to-back interpros but reports from both games, plus reaction from the respective camps, will be on The42 throughout the evening.

Happy New Year and until next time, goodbye!

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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