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Munster feel 'lucky' to come away with win after late scare against Connacht

Johann van Graan’s men nearly lost out in a dramatic endgame.

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony in a maul.
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony in a maul.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

JOHANN VAN GRAAN must have breathed a deep sigh of relief as referee Frank Murphy blew the final whistle in Galway last night, 13-man Munster having defended their tryline from one final onslaught by 15-man Connacht, who really should have scored.

Munster showed their grit to cling on and secure an important 16-10 victory that probably shouldn’t have been in this much doubt.

16-3 and deservedly cruising towards victory with only five minutes of the game remaining, Munster somehow nearly lost this Guinness Pro14 clash as they had two players sent to the sin bin late on.

“We are pleased with the victory but it is a really tough place to come to, specifically against a side that is very high on confidence,” said van Graan post-match.

“I thought we did very well for 39 minutes of the first half then we conceded that penalty that made it 16-3 at half-time.

“They did really well in the last 20 minutes of the game and I’m really glad we came through this one. All credit to all involved – it was a very difficult place to defend a scrum, five yards from your own try line with 13 men. I thought we did really well.”

Connacht have their own regrets about how they attacked off that five-metre scrum but as the dust settles, Munster will be able to reflect on doing many things well in this game.

Their defence largely smothered Connacht, with the visitors to the Sportsground a dominant force at the breakdown as the superb Tadhg Beirne led the way.

Munster had clearly put a lot of time into their maul in preparation for this encounter and the hard work paid off as they also excelled in that area.

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chris-farrell-scores-a-try Chris Farrell scored Munster's only try in the first half. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In attack, there were fleeting examples of what Stephen Larkham has been pushing – forwards passing the ball, a superb lineout strike play at one stage – but amidst the uncertainty about what happens next in this strange season, captain Peter O’Mahony was just pleased to come away with victory.

“It was an incredibly physical and competitive derby match,” said O’Mahony. “They’re an incredibly impressive and proud team playing at home. It’s rare you come out of here with four points.

“These games are never done until the 80 minutes are up. We were lucky in the end. We conceded too many penalties, they forced us to do that, but indiscipline is the main reason we put ourselves under pressure, and they played well. We’re lucky to get out of here with a win.

“Tonight was higely important, we know that was a big win going forward for us in this competition.”

Munster are now firmly control of Conference B of the Pro14, having moved 11 points clear of Connacht with this victory, and should have the quality to see it out from here, with the winner of each conference due to advance directly into this season’s final.

Van Graan and his players must now wait to learn exactly what is happening with the next fortnight of the calendar.

Munster are scheduled to face Clermont in Thomond Park next Saturday but the Top 14 clubs are set to pull out of Champions Cup action over the next two weekends.

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Murray Kinsella

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