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Carbery goes from villain to hero to win it for Munster right at the death

Munster defeated Connacht with a late Joey Carbery conversion in the first Irish derby of the season in Thomond Park.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO



Garry Doyle reports from Thomond Park

THERE IS NO surer evidence of normality returning than the sound of turnstiles clicking.

They started doing so from 6pm here in Limerick, even though kick-off was over an hour and a half away, even though the game was live on the box, even though it was spilling rain and the pub offered a favourable alternative.

Yet everyone here knew they made the right choice. They were sure of it right from the off when Bundee Aki set the tone for the evening with one of those get-out-of-my-way runs; were in little doubt as the lead kept changing hands in the second half; confirmation of their choice was delivered with the drama in the closing stages.

It was Connacht who looked like winning it, leading by five in the final 10 minutes, Jack Carty scoring an opportunist try when he blocked down Joey Carbery’s clearance kick before touching down. Ahead by five points, Munster knew they had to come up with something special.

They did. Diarmuid Barron was their unlikely hero, the substitute hooker crashing across the line from close range after Gavin Coombes had given him the platform to do so. That leveled up the scores at 18-18, leaving Carbery with the chance to atone for his earlier error.

He did. Kicking from a nasty angle, he took his time before placing it between the posts, securing a fourth straight win for Munster in this URC season, leaving Connacht to nurse another painful defeat. They leave here with a bonus point and with respect. They deserved more.

From Aki, there was a tour-de-force to follow up from his tour of South Africa.

That’s not all. Jack Carty found his range with two early kicks to put Connacht six points clear. On the other hand, Chris Cloete kept winning turnovers but then Cian Prendergast kept stealing line-outs. Unsung heroes impressed, John Ryan in a Munster shirt, John Porch and Conor Oliver in a Connacht one.

chris-cloete-scores-a-try Chris Cloete scored a first-half try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

It was Connacht who made the early running, Niall Murray with a clean take at the line-out, Carty, Mack Hansen, Aki and Oliver all carrying, Munster scrambling well to avoid the concession of a try but not well enough to stop ref, Chris Busby, spotting that a covering defender had not rolled away. Carty nailed the kick, Connacht 3-0 Munster.

Things were heating up. Carbery, in that first half, looked a little like the 2018 Carbery again, an early crossfield kick landing just too far forward for Andrew Conway to gather but yet a point had been made. Defend too narrow, and we’ll expose you out wide.

Sure enough, later on in the half they did just that, this time Rory Scannell the player who kicked to the wing, where Tadhg Beirne unleashed his inner Tony Cascarino to hack the ball forward, Cloete eventually grounding it to get the game’s opening try.

There could have been more prior to then. To be fair to Connacht, they had a couple wiped out by the referee, one for a forward pass from Tiernan O’Halloran to Hansen, another when Prendergast was called back after an accidental knock-on.

Had either score been allowed then who knows how the game would have panned out? Thirteen points is a sizeable lead, even if Munster have recently shown they are capable of wiping that out.

jack-carty-kicks-a-penalty Carty nailed two early kicks. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

As it was, they settled for the break with plenty to be happy with. For starters, Dave Kilcoyne and Ryan, the two Munster props, showed soft hands to get a half-break in midfield. As well as this, they were doing the job they were hired for, winning the battle in the scrum.

Other battles weren’t as one-sided. Turnovers, as an example, were evenly enough shared in that opening half but Connacht had the slight edge at the line-out – Murray and Prendergast impressing.

No one, though, was making as big an impression on the game as Aki, whose counter-attack led to their second penalty of the evening, Carty nailing it to make it 6-0, nine minutes played.

With the wind behind Connacht, Carty helped them win the kicking battle; another Aki carry on 24 minutes led to another penalty, Zebo penalised; Carty kicking to the corner. From here the pressure mounted, Hansen touching down following a clever piece of improvisation in midfield by O’Halloran. Alas it was not quite clever enough, ref Busby calling him back for a forward pass.

If that was a big moment, another would come on 33 minutes, Sammy Arnold harshly penalised for a high tackle on Mike Haley, a yellow card his punishment. Down to 14 men, Connacht were soon down on the scoreboard, gaps appearing in their midfield after plenty of patient, smart play by Munster.

Eventually, Scannell noted the three-man overlap to his left and kicked accurately across the park, Beirne volleying it forward, Cloete winning the chase to touch it down. Carbery’s conversion made it 7-6.

Onto the second-half and so much happened inside the first 13 minutes of it, a nasty looking injury for Prendergast leading to his withdrawal on a stretcher; a penalty to Munster that Carbery kicked on 46 minutes and then a try for Paul Boyle seven minutes later, when the Connacht No8 ran a five-metre penalty and evaded Cloete’s attempt to stop him.

That score put Connacht 11-10 ahead. They didn’t stay ahead for long, a Carbery penalty from a difficult angle restoring Munster’s lead.

Come the final quarter, with the benches emptying, the key question was who would hold their nerve.

Neither team, however, could even hold onto the ball, nine minutes of sloppiness preceding a howler from Carbery, when his attempted clearance kick was blocked down by Carty who gathered the ball to score. Better again, from Connacht’s perspective, he touched down under the posts, making the conversion an inevitability. Munster 13-18 Connacht, 70 minutes played.

Ten minutes, however, is a long time in rugby. Munster secured possession in the Connacht 22 from the restart and never left it until Barron scored. That takes guts as well as skill. So does a successful kick to win it in the last minute.


Munster scorers

Tries:  Cloete, Barron


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Conversions: Carbery (1/1)

Penalties: Carbery (2/2)

Connacht scorers

Tries: Boyle, Carty

Conversions: Carty (1/2)

Penalties: Carty (2/2)


Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rory Scannell (rep: Dan Goggin ’57-67 HIA), Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne (rep: Jeremy Loughman ’54), Niall Scannell (rep: Diarmuid Barron ’54), John Ryan (rep: Stephen Archer ’54); Jean Kleyn (rep: Fineen Wycherley ’60), Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony, Chris Cloete (rep: Jack O’Donoghue ’68), Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Neil Cronin, Jake Flannery


Tiernan O’Halloran, John Porch, Sammy Arnold (yellow card 33-43), Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (rep: Kieran Marmion ’61); Matthew Burke (rep: Greg McGrath ’74), Dave Heffernan (rep: Shane Delahunt ’59), Finlay Bealham (rep: Jack Aungier ’64), Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane (rep: Eoghan Masterson ’74), Cian Prendergast (rep: Jarrad Butler ’55), Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle (rep: Abraham Papali’i ’59)

Replacements Tom Daly

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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