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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 22 October 2020
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Good afternoon, rugby fans. We’re getting used to this again, the whole weekend inter-pro lark.

It’s Munster v Connacht this afternoon from 3pm (eir Sport) and this match really has something tangible riding on it.

Munster, as things stand, are third in Pro14 Conference B and so out of the play-off places. They need two points to overtake Scarlets in second in order to set up a semi-final against Leinster next Friday night.

Here are your team-sheets for today’s inter-pro, complete with late changes.

Connacht have pulled Matt Healy from the starting 11 shirt, so academy prospect Diarmuid Kilgallen comes in for his senior debut.

Bundee Aki is on the bench as Peter Robb is withdrawn.

For Munster, James Cronin fills in for Liam O’Connor as loosehead cover.

Munster:

15. Shane Daly
14. Andrew Conway
13. Chris Farrell
12. Damian de Allende
11. Keith Earls
10. JJ Hanrahan
9. Conor Murray

1. Jeremy Loughman
2. Niall Scannell
3. John Ryan
4. Fineen Wycherley
5. Tadhg Beirne
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Chris Cloete
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. James Cronin
18. Stephen Archer
19. Billy Holland
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Craig Casey
22. Rory Scannell
23. Jack O’Sullivan

Connacht:

15. Tiernan O’Halloran
14. Colm de Buitléar
13. Sammy Arnold
12. Tom Daly
11. Diarmuid Kilgallen
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Caolin Blade

1. Paddy McAllister
2. Shane Delahunt
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Niall Murray
5. Quinn Roux (captain)
6. Eoghan Masterson
7. Conor Oliver
8. Abraham Papali’i

Replacements:

16. Johnny Murphy
17. Conor Kenny
18. Matthew Burke
19. Ultan Dillane
20. Seán Masterson
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Bundee Aki
23. Conor Dean

Referee: Frank Murphy.

While Kilgallen will enjoy his first ever pro match and we have another glut of players coming into their first game in six months, spare a thought for the big second rows who have had to wait even longer for a return to action.

Quinn Roux is back in the Connacht engine room about nine months after his last outing. Of course, Tadhg Beirne’s break from play was also a lengthy one after he suffered an ankle injury against Saracens in December.

Lord knows, both sides could do without another serious-looking injury in the second row. So here’s hoping they go well.

The teams are out in the echo-chamber. Nearly time for the last regular season fixture of 2019/20 for the provinces.

KICK-OFF: Fitzgerald gets us under way, kicking to Munster’s 22. They gather in and Murray sends a box kick skyward.

3Mins

Knock-on called and Connacht kick from the scrum. It’s kicked back and Tiernan O’Halloran does well to bulldoze through Keith Earls. Munster force the breakdown penalty at the next ruck though as Tadhg Beirne forces the carrier to hold on.

5Mins

Munster enjoying a very bright start, full of purpose and Tadhg Beirne takes a 5m line-out to set up an attack.

CJ takes on a big tackle, but Connacht manage to rip it clear and Tom Daly clears the lines.

The penalties are flowing Munster’s way and they’re back at the 5m line. Connacht’s maul D is good, forcing Munster to backpedal, but the breakdown decision again goes against Connacht.

7Mins

SIN-BIN: Conor Oliver is the man who pays the price for Connacht’s string of penalties.

8Mins

TRY! Munster 5 Connacht 0 (Cloete ’8)

9Mins

O’Mahony took the line-out and this time the Munster maul rumbled like a hot spud through butter.

Hanrahan adds the extras from a tight enough angle. His goal-kickiing has become a real strength of his game.

Munster 7 Connacht 0

12Mins

Connacht’s first real attack of the day is thwarted by CJ Stander’s brilliant strength over the ball at ruck time. Penalties have been a killer for Andy Friend’s side so far today.

15Mins

Stander on the attack then absolutely relishes the sight of De Buitlear shaping to tackle him and leans in while carrying at the wing and blasts him backwards.

There was no advantage for Munster though and so they go back for another penalty and on to another 5m line-out.

Frank Murphy, a former Connacht player of course, has to call Quinn Roux in to issue a warning about the Westerners’ discipline. Munster will look to keep playing, keep turning the screw and see how many infringements they can drag out of Connacht.

PENALTY TRY! Munster 14 Connacht 0

19Mins

Munster took the chance of scrummaging the penalty in front of the post and their pack milked the maximum return.

Conor Oliver is back on for Connacht, they’ll need the openside to be squeaky clean as they try to get a handle on this game.

20Mins

Oomph! There’s Abraham Papali’i with a big heavy impact into CJ Stander off first phase. He has made an impressive start in his Connacht debut and will hopefully have a big impact throughout the season ahead.

22Mins

Connacht mount their first sustained attack of the game now. They make decent ground in the Munster 22, but we go back to the corner for a high tackle penalty.

23Mins

Who is there to stop them? Only the world’s finest defensive line-out jumper Peter O’Mahony.

The Munster skipper gets up and bats it back for Conway to clear. The Corkman seems to have hurt himself amid the effort though.

24Mins

O’Mahony’s back up and running thankfully. It was a heavy fall from the line-out after Wycherly and the other lifter pushed O’Mahony forward to challenge and were unable to guide him back to earth.

Tiernan O’Halloran, who needed treatment after an earlier heavy fall, is called ashore and Bundee Aki is in the game.

25Mins

A couple of schemozzles back to back there. First one features former Munster man Conor Oliver looking for a scrap with current Munster openside Chris Cloete. Tasty.

Papali’i catches Conor Murray with a high shot and Munster players take exception. Cloete is again right at the heart of the row.

26Mins

RED CARD!  Abraham Papali’i

The referee initially seemed happy enough with the Connacht 8′s hit, but another angle showed the severity of the shoulder-t0-head impact.

It didn’t help his case that it was Munster’s key playmaker in the firing line.

27Mins

Connacht’s mountain just became that bit steeper. And Munster, at the risk of jinxing them, are cruising towards the semi-final.

34Mins

A silly penalty from Cloete there as he smacks Blade with a late tackle a solid second after watching him pass the ball away. Munster would do well to take some of the emotion out of the match now that they have the man advantage. They have the talent to put the game beyond Connacht in short order.

34Mins

TMO and the referee now looking at Shane Delahunt’s leading forearm… danger here.

35Mins

RED CARD! Shane Delahunt

The hooker raised his forearm carrying into CJ Stander and caught the back row in the neck.

Connacht have to make their way through this game with 13 men.

37Mins

TRY! Munster 21 Connacht 0 (Loughman ’37)

38Mins

Munster not being tempted into looking for the space in wide areas just yet. They continue trucking it up and why not when they can make inroads to the try-line.

45Mins

Connacht, as is their wont, are plugging away manfully with Jonny Murphy on in place of Kilgallen to give them a seventh forward.

Penalties bring them up to the Munster 5m line and they eke another decision out after the line-out to send Peter O’Mahony away for a rest in the sin-bin.

YELLOW CARD: Peter O’Mahony

45Mins

Connacht are over the line through Quinn Roux, but the ball spills away so the TMO will have a close look.

47Mins

No try. Murray takes the line-out as they go back to the corner from another penalty.

Munster now will go down to 13 men as Murphy penalises Tadhg Beirne at the breakdown.

YELLOW CARD: Tadhg Beirne

49Mins

TRY! Munster 21 Connacht 5 (Aki ’49)

Bundee AKi made himself the number 8 for Connacht at the last scrum and bolted at the try-line. Munster stop him first time around, but Connacht recycle and Blade sets up Aki for another carry two phases later and he’s over the whitewash.

HALF-TIME: Munster 21 Connacht 7

A bizarre match unfolding and the second half will start with 13 v 13.

40Mins

After a first 40 with four tries and five cards, what on earth will the second half bring?

We’re under way.

43Mins

Watching Bundee Aki is an utter joy at times it must be said.

The centre is taking it upon itself to change this match single-handedly and he’s getting very close to succeeding as he frustrates Munster and forces them to concede penalties as Connacht get on the front foot.

The Westerners are close to an improbable breakthrough as Aki and Fitzgerald let the ball on towards De Buitlear, but ti’s just out of the wing’s reach.

46Mins

This time Aki and Connacht don’t manage to bull their way over the try-line. Murphy penalised for holding on at the ruck and Munster can clear their lines.

48Mins

O’Mahony and Beirne are now back on the field, so Munster are restored to the full 15 just in time for a solid attacking platform as a penalty is kicked into Connacht’s 22.

49Mins

Munster play down the blindside off the maul. Murray whips it to Earls who gets the ball down in the corner, but it’s quickly apparent on the TMO review that his trailing leg was in touch before he planted down.

TRY! Munster 28 Connacht 7 (Beirne ’50)

50Mins

They don’t need to lament the chance not given to Earls. Murray whips a gorgeous flat pass for Beirne and he canters in.

TRY! Munster 35 Connacht 7 (Conway ’51)

53Mins

The shortage of personnel really showing for Connacht now as they concede a second try in as many minutes.

Chris Farrell made the big break into open ground in midfield. Beirne and then De Allende offered support and changed the angle before the Springbok tossed the assisting pass inside to Conway.

55Mins

TRY! Munster 40 Connacht 7 (Conway ’55)

56Mins

This turned real ugly, real fast for Connacht. Conway breaks away again and forces his way into the corner despite a tackler.

There’s a long 25 minutes ahead for the Western province, but Munster can begin to ease off the pedal with a five-day turnaround ahead of their semi-final clash with Leinster.

Hanrahan keeps up his excellent conversion rate with that kick from the touchline.

Munster 42 Connacht 7

58Mins

Van Graan is calling some big guns ashore now. Conor Murray and JJ Hanrahan are on the bench with Craig Casey and Rory Scannell the new half-backs.

61Mins

CJ Stander is headed for the sideline now too. If I were a Munster coach I’d be looking to get Peter O’Mahony, Tadhg Beirne and a few centres out of the firing line soon too. Even if it meant reporting some late ‘cramp’ and seeing out the game with less than 15 men.

62Mins

Billy Holland is in the game as Tadhg Beirne calls an end to a fine comeback performance.

TRY! Munster 49 Connacht 7 (Cronin ’68

68Mins

Munster not trying to reinvent the wheel with a few back-ups dotted around the field. James Cronin is on the end of a maul that rumbles over and Rory Scannell comes up with a brilliant conversion to edge Munster close to the half century.

TRY! Munster 49 Connacht 12 (Murphy ’72)

You just can’t keep Bundee Aki down. He cuts through Munster on a brilliant scything run. Keith Earls does superbly well to snag him and stop him finding the try-line, but Connacht successfully recycle and reload after a few phases for Jonny Murphy to cross in the left corner.

78Mins

Coming to the final minutes now and you have to say Connacht, dealt a rotten hand, have performed pretty well in this match. They played with a full complement of players for all of 17 minutes between Conor Oliver’s yellow and the two reds.

And bar the early penalty-filled stages and a few second half minutes when Munster ran riot, they’ve made things tricky for the southern province.

FULL-TIME: Munster 49 Connacht 12

Frank Murphy doesn’t wait a second beyond the 80 to blow the full-time whistle.

Munster get the job done and set up a semi-final clash with Leinster for Friday evening.

Connacht have a few weeks to regroup before starting the 2020/21 season.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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