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Munster put reverses behind them with impressive win over Connacht in Thomond Park tonight

Guinness PRO14:
Munster 39, Connacht 13
(Pictured, Conor Oliver made a welcome return to action tonight)
ON a night more in keeping with the Winter Olympics, Munster and Connacht served up a highly entertaining game tonight in Thomond Park before an attendance of 18,604. The home side led 10-6 at the break but Connacht had shown enough character to cause concern in the home dressingroom. The first score of the second half was always going to be important and while Connacht started brightest, they kept giving the ball away at the breakdown.
Munster then got the rub of the green, awarded two penalties in succession, the second one within distance and Keatley increased the lead to 13-6 with 50 minutes played. Keith Earls mmade a trademark break from his own 22 to the opposing 22 from the restart and Munster went in search of another score that would give them more breathing space. Keatley and Murray threw out a series of attacking passes, the outhalf kicked through and Andrew Conway got the nod from the TMO for the touchdown. Keatley added the extras and the 20-6 lead had the home fans in good voice. A training ground move from a set scrum set up Munster’s next, the ball floating through the hands of the threequarters for Keith Earls to dive in at the Mayorstone end. Keatley missed the difficult conversion but Connacht’s dreams of a victory at this venue was already shelved. adding to their woes, the western province lost Quinn Roux to the bin for a dangerous tackle on Earls and from the next phase Conor Murray added to his try tally and Keatley converted to make the score 32-6 to Munster with 15 minutes to play.
Garryowen’s Mike Sherry and Bill Johnston came came on in the latter stages as Munster tried to improve their points tally, the pressure told on the Connacht defence and Conor Murray got in for his second try with Keatley kicking the conversion. Connacht got a consolation score near the finish with Tom McCartney going over and Craig Ronaldson adding the conversion.
It was a good start to the game for Connacht, Adeolokin linking up with Ahki to force a penalty and Jack Harty slotting over with the coolness of the strong wind that swept through local headquarters. The visitors then had to show their resolve in defence, forcing a turnover five metres from their own line and with ten minutes gone Connacht looked the more dangerous going forward. Coming up to the end of the first quarter, the battles in the trenches was hotting up but two effective breaks by Chris Farrell opened up a bit of space in the Connacht defence and Darren O’Shea got over with Keatley’s conversion putting four points between the sides at 7-3.
From hero to villian, Farrell was then whistled for not rolling away after a tackle and Jack Harty’s penalty from inside the ten metre line reduced that lead to a single point: 7-6 with 25 minutes played. for the second time in the match the Connacht pack pushed Munster back at a scrum, being awarded a penalty as reward. Keatley accepted the gift and from 25 metres he pushed his side 10-6 to the good ten minutes before the break.
Connacht were certainly not here to visit King John’s Castle. They upped the physicality, kept Munster very busy in defence and were it not for a few crucial handling errors they could have added a further score to their tally. They were more than holding their own at the scrum but continually failed to make use of good territory option. Munster went close with the clock showing 40 but Connacht again showed character by making a saving turnover. Half time, Munster 10, Connacht 6.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Darren O’Shea; Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver, CJ Stander (C).
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Robin Copeland, Peter O’Mahony, Duncan Williams, Bill Johnston, Darren Sweetnam.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Pita Ahki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Peter McCabe, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt). Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conan O’Donnell, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.
Referee, David Wilkinson, IRFU.

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