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Munster show their intent with brilliant victory

(Pictured, clashes between Munster and Connacht are always fiercely competitive)
By Aidan Corr
in Thomond Park
Guinness PRO12 Championship:
Munster 50, Connacht 14
THE reigning champions were swept unceremoniously aside in this game with ruthless Munster sending out a message of intent to the other three semi-finalists in this competion. Munster will be at home to the Ospreys on May 20 in Thomond Park while Leinster will be home to the Scarlets.
The home side had the points in the bag by half-time. They scored three very well-created converted tries to add their only a penalty and Connacht never got near their try line in a one-sided 40 minutes. Munster played some outstanding rugby in that opening half with Angus Lloyd providing excellent service from the base of the rucks and mauls and the backs weaving a series of patterns direct from the training ground, the visitors were on the ropes for long periods. The 24-0 half time lead was well deserved.
Three minutes into the second half, Connacht were exposed once again, Alex Wooton making a fine break and James Cronin stretching for the touchdown. Ian Keatley’s conversion made it 31-0 and the bonus point victory was assured. Andrew Conway was on fire everytime he got the ball and a 40 metre break saw him go close to try number five. It was Connacht who got the next score, Harty planting a well-judged cross-field kick into the hands of Cian Kelliher and Harty landing the conversion.
Biggest cheer of the afternoon was the arrival of Conor Murray on the field on 31 minutes and his first touch led to his side’s fifth try, Andrew Conway crossing under the posts and Keatley making it 6/6 from the boot as the lead raced into 38-7. To add to Connacht’s woes, Rassie Erasmus emptied a bench that was brimming with international caps for the remaining 20 minutes. Connacht reduced the lead to 38-14 on 63 minutes when replacement Naulia Dawai got over for a try which Craig Ronaldson converted. Munster went 45-14 in front with ten minutes to go, Francis Saili speeding over and Keatley again finding the target. The last play of the game saw Conor Oliver go over near the corner but man of the match Ian Keatley missed his only attempt of the game, sending the conversion narrowly wide of the right hand upright.
First half: The official attendance of 18,567 had only to wait seven minutes for their side’s opening try. Dan Goggin went through a hold in the Connacht defence and timed his pass well for Keith Earls to run in near the posts, Keatley converting for a 7-0 lead. Connacht could have got a score on the board, Jack Harty placing a kick into the hands of left wing Daniel Poolman but he failed to control the ball.
On 24 minutes the lead had increased to 10-0 to the home side. James Cronin was first in with a tackle on Quinn Roux and the second-row was whistled for not releasing. Keatley kicked the easy penalty. Aided by the strong breeze that blew into the Mayorstone end, Munster continued to dominate. Angus Lloyd put in a clever kick that brought play to within 15 metres of the line, Munster won back possess and some crisp passing saw Jack O’Donoghue storm over with Keatley adding the difficult conversion from near the sideline. 17-0 on 28 minutes and Connacht continued to have their backs to the wall as the home side attacked in waves. It got worst for the Westerners four minutes later, Alex Wooton making progress down the right wing, finding Keatley who placed Andrew Conway for a wonderful try in the corner and Keatley difficult conversion pushed the lead to 24-0 at the break.
Munster: Andrew Conway, Alex Wootton, Jaco Taute, Dan Goggin, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Angus Lloyd; James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer; Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland – capt.; Jean Deysel, Conor Oliver, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, Francis Saili.Referee:
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Danie Poolman, Tom Farrell, Craig Ronaldson, Cian Kelleher; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Conor Carey; Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne; Eoin McKeon, James Connolly, John Muldoon (captain).
Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, Finlay Bealham, Sean O’Brien, Naulia Dawai, John Cooney (38), Marnitz Boshoff, Darragh Leader.
Referee, David Wilkinson (IRFU).

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