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Back three class and controversy as Connacht cut through Munster

A red card for Andrew Conway proved crucial as Kieran Keane’s men claimed their second Pro14 win of the campaign.

Connacht 20

Munster 16

THE WORRISOME DAYS of Connacht’s early season suddenly feel a long time ago after they claimed a first inter-pro win, and third victory on the trot, for Kieran Keane.

Munster were forced to play the final 19 minutes with 14 men after Andrew Conway was shown a red card for what referee Nigel Owens and his TMO viewed as an elbow to the head of Jack Carty.

Conway’s red card could very well put his involvement in at least the first of Ireland’s November internationals in doubt. Fortunately, there were fullbacks on either side showing a ravenous hunger for any opportunity that might be offered their way.

At the end of a week in which he was permanently in the spotlight, Simon Zebo took just three minutes to light up the contest, latching on to a sumptuous Rory Scannell offload before powering through contact and over the line.

Simon Zebo celebrates scoring his sides first try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was an ominous start for Connacht, who were back to the harsh reality of their one-from-six Pro14 record after Challenge Cup wins.

The manner in which Munster hunted after the ball and flung their way through gainlines had them in a deserved 10-point lead.  Connacht however, had their own scorned would-be internationals to spark a revival. Keith Earls felt the full force of Tiernan O’Halloran’s frustration shortly after Zebo touched down, and the Galwayman delivered some special touches in attack while remaining solid under high balls.

O’Halloran’s try put Connacht right back in the contest, but his was just the finish, the creation must be credited to imminent Ireland international Bundee Aki, whose reverse pass set the excellent Jarrad Butler clear and he delivered the expertly-timed pass to allow O’Halloran coast in.

Jarrad Butler tackled by CJ Stander Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

By the turnaround, only the acute angle of Carty’s second strike at goal separated the sides. The Connacht 10 nailed his conversion and a penalty on the verge of half-time to leave the gap at 10 – 13 when the sides emerged for the second half.

That gap was then erased 10 minutes into the second half as Connacht’s front row inflicted a painful welcome to the game for Stephen Archer, teeing up Carty for a 40-metre penalty to level the match.

That scrummaging power paid dividends again with Munster knocking on the door minutes later, the starting trio of Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham heeded the referee warnings to win a pressure-relieving penalty.

The home crowd were even more appreciative of the call Owens made on the hour mark. Carty chipped out of his own half and suffered a heavy collision as he chased. Owens consulted TMO Brian MacNeice who clearly stated that Conway’s elbow connected with Carty’s head.

The collision was a completely accidental one, the chaos that comes in any kick and chase, but once told of the contact with the head, Owens reverted to the letter of the law and handed a red card to the wing.

Thomas Farrell gets away from Kevin O'Byrne to run in a try Farrell breaks away for the winning score. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster didn’t lie down after being reduced to 14, far from it.

JJ Hanrahan kicked his side into the lead minutes later, but he turned villain almost instantly, missing his tackle on Tom Farrell as the centre side-stepped through the line to give the Sportsground that unfamiliar winning feeling 14 minutes from time.

There was still a bit of work to do mind, but a frenetic defensive effort was applied to quash Munster’s relentless late carrying and Farrell once again made his presence felt on Hanrahan by forcing the game-ending knock-on.

A deserved and overdue second win of Connacht’s Pro14 campaign, and also a match that could have implications for Joe Schmidt’s November plans.

Scorers

Connacht

Tries: T O’Halloran, T Farrell

Conversions: J Carty (1/1) C Ronaldson (1/1)

Penalties: J Carty (2/3)

Munster

Tries: S Zebo

Conversions: I Keatley (1/1)

Penalties: I Keatley (2/2) JJ Hanrahan (1/1)

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Cian Kelleher (Niyi Adeolokun ’23), Jack Carty (Craig Ronaldson ’22), Kieran Marmion: Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (Dave Heffernan ’68), Finlay Bealham (Conor Carey ’70); Ultan Dillane (Quinn Roux ’19), James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Eoghan Masterson ’74).

Munster: Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, Ian Keatley (JJ Hanrahan ’46), Conor Murray: Dave Kilcoyne (Liam O’Connor ’51), Rhys Marshall (Kevin O’Byrne ’51), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’46); Mark Flanagan (Sean McCarthy ’70), Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tommy O’Donnell (Jack O’Donoghue ’63), CJ Stander.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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