Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
James Crombie/INPHO
# Winds of change
Munster's maul does the trick as they secure bonus point win over Connacht
Munster defeated Connacht 24-17 in blustery conditions in the URC this evening.



MUNSTER CAN MAUL. That was never a secret but even though Connacht knew where the big danger lay, there wasn’t a thing they could do about it as the hosts scored three tries via this source en route to a seven–point win.

But that’s not the only thing Connacht will be stewing over this evening for there were two big 50/50 refereeing calls which also went Munster’s way in this one, first when Connacht full-back John Porch was sent to the bin after Joey Carbery collided with him; then when Jack Carty was penalised for tackling John Hodnett in the air.

Each incident happened within a ten-minute period at a time when the scores were locked at 10-10. By the time Porch returned to the field, it was 17-10. By the time the final whistle blew, there were still seven between them. Connacht, you can be sure, have reason to be sore.

First, the Porch incident. Carbery had chipped over the Australian’s head and was chasing hard after his kick when he ran into Porch. Neither man was to blame and if a penalty was an understandable outcome, a card was harsh.

So was the penalty that went against Carty, as Hodnett jumped to the air to collect Craig Casey’s whipped pass. It was from this lineout that John Ryan touched down for the game-changing try.

There and then you knew they’d win. Sure enough a fourth try followed – again from a maul, Niall Scannell the scorer of this one – and a bonus point was there, following first half tries from Calvin Nash and Roman Salanoa, the latter one also stemming from a maul.

While Connacht rallied, showing spirit as well as skill to get a second try of their own through Kieran Marmion following a 20-plus phase attack, it was only enough to secure a losing bonus point.

Could they have had more? If certain decisions had went their way then yes. But unless you learn to cope with Munster’s set-piece, you will be in trouble. So it proved.

They struggled in this department, and ultimately paid the price for failing to take a lead into the break even though they had a strong wind at their backs in the first-half.

Early on Connacht were much the better team yet had only three points to show for it, which stemmed from a midfield burst by Bundee Aki, eventually leading to a penalty after Alex Kendellen was punished for not moving away.

Jack Carty converted it and Connacht were on the board. The problem was Munster soon followed them by scoring almost immediately from the restart, when Caolin Blade’s attempted clearance was charged down and Aki spilled the bouncing ball.

From the subsequent scrum, Craig Casey darted right, before altering his line of running for a mini-second, enough time for Calvin Nash to find a bit of space on the outside. Both his run, and Casey’s pass, were perfectly timed. Munster had the lead.

They retained it for about 16 minutes or so, one big moment arriving on 18 minutes when Munster successfully defended Connacht’s maul on their five metre line, eventually emerging with the ball following a clever piece of theft from Kendellen.

It was a strange sort of game, the wind playing havoc with lineouts especially but also for those in the backfield as they tried to judge the flight of the ball.

Credit Casey for the quality of his clearance kicks but the most eye-catching player on the pitch was Aki, back in the Connacht team after a lengthy suspension.

The Ireland centre is crucial to Connacht’s hopes and here we saw the reason why.

He runs with such a low centre of gravity, combining power with the softest of hands and the element of surprise.

We saw all this on 27 minutes. Munster thought they were safe when the play was inside the Connacht 22 but Aki put away Tom Farrell and by the time he was hauled down, the play had moved 50 yards upfield.

Munster were scrambling and seemed to have got things back under control when John Porch took a wrong turn into traffic.

Caoilin Blade however had spotted an avenue into the Munster 22; his grubber putting Shane Daly under pressure.

But not as much pressure as Mike Haley subsequently felt after he received Daly’s pass. Panicking, Haley passed the ball – not to mention the buck – to Joey Carbery Or at least he thought he had. Connacht wing Byron Ralston had read the full-back’s intentions and reached the ball before Carbery, scoring from the intercept. Carty converted and Munster had a 10-5 lead on the half-hour mark.

byron-ralston-scores-his-sides-opening-try James Crombie / INPHO Ralston scores Connacht's opening try. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

It was level by half-time, though, Munster responding with a maul try – scored by Roman Salanoa, created by a piece of Tadhg Beirne athleticism. While Carbery missed his second conversion of the night, it was easy to forgive him. In that wind, accuracy from the touchline was impossible.

Accuracy from lineouts proved crucial. Munster gradually got it right, continually finding Tadhg Beirne, who was simply brilliant.

Plus they kept faith with the ability of their hookers to throw their darts correctly. After that, it was a case of their maul getting going. It did. Salanoa, Ryan and Scannell all profited to score tries.

Connacht, in response, kept going. The final score of the game earned them a point. Munster made the bigger point, though.

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Munster scorers

Tries: Salanoa, Nash, Ryan, Scannell

Conversions: Carbery (2/4)


Connacht scorers

Tries: Ralston, Marmion

Conversions: Carty (2/2)

Penalties: Carty (1/1)

Munster: Mike Haley (rep: Jack Crowley 42), Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly, Joey Carbery (rep: Jack Crowley ‘), Craig Casey (rep: Paddy Patterson ‘), Josh Wycherley (rep: Jeremy Loughman ‘49), Diarmuid Barron (rep: Niall Scannell ‘53), Roman Salanoa (rep: John Ryan ‘49); Jean Kleyn (rep: Edwin Edogbo ’66), Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (rep: Jack O’Donoghue 36), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen (rep: Gavin Coombes ’53)

Replacements not used: Paddy Patterson,

Connacht: John Porch (yellow card 48-58), Byron Ralston (rep: Conor Fitzgerald ’58), Tom Farrell, Bundee Aki, Alex Wootton, Jack Carty (CAPT) Caolin Blade (rep: Kieran Marmion ‘66), Denis Buckley (rep: Peter Dooley ‘59), Dave Heffernan (rep: Shane Delahunt ’65), Finlay Bealham (rep: Jack Aungier ‘51), Josh Murphy (rep: Oisin Dowling ‘51), Gavin Thornbury (rep: Niall Murray ‘66), Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler (rep: Paul Boyle ’51)

Referee: Gianluca Gnecchi (FIR)

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