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Dublin: 7°C Saturday 28 November 2020


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CONNACHT HAVE BEATEN MUNSTER in Galway on just two occasions since 1976 but the times, they are a changing.

Eric Elwood’s men knocked off some heavy-hitters at the Sportsground so far in 2012 and had the Reds in their sights.

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Connacht 12-16 Munster

I’m nine minutes shy of this so I will say good late-afternoon to you all.

Let us get you started with the team news:

Connacht: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White (c); G Naoupu, M McCarthy; A Browne, J O’Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, D Buckley, R Loughney, M Swift, E Grace, P O’Donohoe, M Jarvis, E Griffin.

Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy, C Laulala, J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley, P Stringer; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; P Butler, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan (c).

Replacements: S Henry, W du Preez, BJ Botha, D Foley, S Dougall, D Williams, JJ Hanrahan, D Barnes.

Connacht have beaten Ulster, Harlequins, Leinster and Biarritz in Galway this year. Can they add Munster to that hitlist?

Poll Results:

No (76)
Yes (51)

Declan Kidney is in the media box in the Clan Stand. That’s my seat Deccie!

Raining and a gentle westerly wind as Parks kicks-off. Out on the full too. Scrum on halfway. Stringer starts people, Stringer starts!

Connacht win the first scrum and Munster win their first lineout [their own]. Parks threw a sloppy, chest-high pass to O’Halloran to scupper a promising attack. The ball is retained and Parks then kicks well for possession. Good hit by O’Connor on Coughlan in the build-up.

A promising Munster attack is spoiled by an obstruction so, with six minutes gone, Parks clears upfield.

McSharry takes a super Parks chip with his fingertips but the knocks on as he is tackled by Hurley. Munster get the scrum as Loughney trots off the subs bench for captain Nathan White. Early blow.

Great take by McCarthy in the lineout sets up a rolling maul and O’Connor charges for the posts. Side entry from Munster into that maul gives Parks a penalty kick.

Connacht 3-0 Munster (Dan Parks ’10)

The Aussie-born Scotsman gets the kick. Keatley’s restart is deep into the Connacht 22 but they thump the ball back with interest.

Connacht 3-3 Munster (Keatley pen ’16)

Tiernan O’Halloran in a spot of discomfort but he limps back into play as Keatley pins Connacht back with a handy kick.  Big Sherry through coming up. Munster claim it and rumble to within three yards of the Connacht line. A couple of advantages given and Stringer wanted a quick-tap but penalty seems the sensible option.

White is back on after getting his injury seen to. Laulala then called back for a forward pass – a touch harsh. Wilkinson wins a penalty for his side at that encounter with Stephen Archer eating turf.

Connacht 6-3 Munster (Parks pen ’23)

Tommy O’Donnell to slow to roll away at an attacking Connacht ruck and Dan Parks, after a failed drop goal, slots over a penalty from 25 metres out.

Fine work from Robbie Henshaw with a lively kick chase that snags Hurley. Connacht get the ball back and Vainikolo chips ahead before dragging Keatley out of play.

Hurley knocks on a high ball but Henshaw is penalised for an airborne challenge on the Munster man.

CLOSE! Vainikolo then intercepts a Murphy pass near the halfway, picks up a bouncing ball and streaks clear done the left. It looks, for all money, like a try but Keatley finds the legs to catch him and drag the Tongan out of play.

Matthew Jarvis has replaced the injured O’Halloran. Five minutes until half-time and Munster on the attack. Jason Harris-Wright is yellow-carded for not releasing the ball as Archer was trying to release quick ball. Crucial period this.

PENALTY TRY (Connacht 6-10 Munster ’36)

The scrum was reeling as eight battered seven backwards. Not a re-set in sight as the ref jogs backwards to the posts. Keatley gets the simple coinversion.

Connacht 6-13 Munster (Keatley pen ’39)

Keatley, the former Connacht player, adds a superb penalty from two yards shy of the halfway line. That’s HALF-TIME too. Connacht will wonder what on earth just happened – 10 point swing and a man lost to the bin in less than five minutes.

Connacht may be discouraged by the half-time score but they should stick to their gameplan in the second half as the wind will be with them.

Mary is in the mix at the Sportsground and she is not impressed with the lack of Munster support:

Connacht 6-16 Munster (Keatley pen ’41)

Keatley kicks-off the second-half. Marmion ponders over the breakdown and is bundled up by Stringer. Rookie mistake and Connacht concede a penalty as he holds in and the forwards bulldoze in from all angles. This has been a bad yellow card for the westerners and Harris-Wright is still off the field.

Marmion tries to make amends by sniping off the back of a Connacht scrum and Keatley is pinged for not releasing after the scrum-half is grounded. Parks kicks for the line as the home side go for the try.

Connacht 9-16 Munster (Parks pen ’45)

The home supporters are furious as O’Callaghan and Coughlan are warned for the Munster forwards slowness to roll away. No yellows flashed but Parks opts to kick this time, good decision too as he was in front of the sticks. We are back to 15-a-side as Parks spoils another move by trying to force matters with a cut-out pass.

Munster may not be Europe’s best team any more but they are a well-drilled unit. They know they need to seize the initiative after the numbers have evened up. Archer concedes a penalty for side entry again but the yellow stays in the pocket again.

Parks’ passing may not be on the money this evening but his kicking for touch and behind the Munster lines has been exemplary. He pins the visitors back but they claim their lineout and hoof clear.

Connacht 12-16 Munster (Parks DG ’53)

Stunning stuff from Connacht. Parks chips a 22 drop-out to the charging McKeon, who bursts clear. The blitzing move gets Connacht inside the Munster 22 and the outhalf snaffles a drop goal straight in front of the posts, from 25 metres out. The game is on.

Parks penalty from inside his half gets Connacht into the dangerzone again. They win the lineout but Michael Swift, on as sub, knocks on. Munster with the scrum inside their 22 but they’ll need to win it. Denis Buckley and Nathan White fail to bind so Keatley has a pressure-free kick out.

Keatley fails to find touch and Vainikolo is on the attack.

Dudley Phillips, the ref, has held the game up for 60 seconds to lecture the two captains about sass mouth. Play restarts with Connacht piling forward and their backline operators, Parks and Henshaw making the big plays. Mike McCarthy is then collared around the neck by James Downey, who earns a yellow card for the effort.

Parks misses from 10 metres closer to the posts than Keatley in the first half. He really is an all-or-nothing player. Munster down to 14 but that was a big let-off.

The cavalry come on for Connacht – Loughney, Griffin and O’Donhue. 13 minutes to go and Michael Swift is not giving up. Big tackle on Sean Dougall.

Connacht are 10m out from the Munster line with an attacking lineout. Jarvis and McSharry have darts but the passing is too turgid. Naoupu could have a try in the corner though – TMO!

NO TRY! Naoupu definitely got there first but Stringer’s head first dive put him off and, on the slide, he did not ground it in time. The fans in the ground will be mystified and angry but there was no clear replay of the ball being touched down before the second-row slid out. Huge escape, needless to say. Eight minutes remain.

Munster win a scrum on halfway with Buckley and Loughney hitting the deck. Connacht steal a lineout soon after but are only in their 22. They need something to go for them as O’Dea’s chip and chase results in the winger bundling Henshaw out of play. He requires treatment after making that tackle.

Four minutes on the clock and Connacht have an attacking lineout in the Munster 22.

Munster steal and Keatley thunders a kick downfield. Penalty conceded for offside by three points are no good now. Quick tap and Connacht hammer forward. Two minutes to play.

Sloppy passing again and Griffin is isolated on the turf so Munster stomp in and win the penalty. 30 seconds to play and the visitors in possession. Grinding it out.

The tactic pays off and, with time in the red, Keatley scythes the ball out of play. That is FULL-TIME

As a great individual once said – it’s like deja vu all over again. Three major moments that swung the tie in Munster’s favour:

  • Keatley’s try-saving tackle on Vainikolo
  • Munster’s 13-point haul when Harris-Wright was sin-binned
  • Naoupu failing to ground the ball over the tryline

That’s it from me but stay with for reactions and reflections on the weekend’s inter-pro action.

About the author:

Patrick McCarry