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Late seven pointer eases Munster’s anxiety in tonight’s derby game

Guinness PRO14 Championship:
Aidan Corr, Thomond Park
Munster 27, Connacht 14
ROOM to improve is likely to be the opinion of the Munster camp after this victory over a very impressive Connacht tonight. The home side had to dig out their traditional grit when their lead was reduced to just six points in the closing stages.
A third try, this time from replacement JJ Hanrahan with a few minutes left put a better look on the scoreboard for the home fans but had Connacht got down into Munster’s 22 in those dying minutes, the result could well have gone the other way.
The reds led 17-7 at half time and for many fans in the 19,999 attendance (I think they should have had a re-count!), the home side would ease their way to a bigger winning margin in the second 40 minutes. Connacht had other ideas. They put Munster under some serious pressure, causing them problems at try time and they made the home side fight hard for every inch of territory.
With just six points between the sides, we saw the ‘real Munster’, attacking with pace, driving forward from every phase and it was rewarded with that final score that will see them now meet Benetton next Saturday in the quarter final of the competition at the same venue.
Connacht had the better of the opening ten minutes with Munster struggling to
put some flowing moves together. The frustration of the home side was evident when Chris Cloete was penalised and from the first penalty from the tee of this game Conor Dean’s kick was edged just wide by the strong wind. Off Munster’s first real attack they managed to knock the ball on a metre outside the visitors’ 22 but you could feel the step up in pace from the reds. A penalty award on 20 minutes into the Mayorstone end gave Tyler Bleyenndaal a chance of three points and he delivered with a splendid kick from inside halfway.
Connacht turned down a kickable penalty immediately after, a quick tap by Kieran Marmion failing to reap rewards, but another break by the scrumhalf set up the maul that saw tight head prop Finlay Bealham crash over, converted by Conor Dean.
Then came a ‘What Happens Next’ moment with Andrew Conway intercepting near the Connacht 22. He ran clear but as he strolled over, the ball was knocked from his grasp and the try chance was lost. Munster kept up the pressure and Tadhg Beirne showed nimble footwork to run clear for a touchdown under the posts, Tyler Bleyendaal adding the easy conversion to put Munster ahead 10-7 with 32 minutes played.
Thomond Park came alive four minutes before the break with a sparkling Munster try. Andrew Conway made the initial break, he offloaded to Peter O’Mahony and Mike Haley was at the shoulder of the skipper to take the final pass for a wonderful score. Tyler Bleyendaal converted and Munster were storming ahead with a 17-7 lead. Right on the stroke of half time Connacht were awarded a penalty 35 metres out but Conor Dean’s kick once again missed the target.
Connacht started the second half eager to reduce the 10 point deficit but after Stephen Fitzgerald had gained yards with a good break they were penalised at a ruck. Another score for Munster looked likely to put them a step closer to victory but Jean Kleyn knocked on a few metres from the line. Although they trailed, there were a lot of positives in Connacht’s performance. Their defence was impressive, their set-piece solid and when they had possession they looked dangerous.
On 55 minutes Munster edged 20-7 in front thanks to another Bleyendaal penalty. Connacht responded with a long period of pressure but knocked-on the ball after a number of phases close to the line. The visitors kept up the pressure as Munster emptied the bench before Jeremy Loughney was sent t o the bin as Connacht continued to pound the home line. They were rewarded, Joe Macksymiw crashing over and Conor Dean slotted over to reduce the lead to 20-14 with nine minutes remaining.
That score stung Munster into action and JJ Hanrahan finished off some powerful attacking rugby, stepping inside the cover for a fine try which he also converted.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Calvin Nash; Tyler Bleyendaal, Neil Cronin; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Craig Casey, JJ Hanrahan, Sammy Arnold.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Tom Daly, Stephen Fitzgerald; Conor Dean, Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham; Joe Maksymiw, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Robin Copleand. Replacements, Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Conor Carey, Eoghan Masterson, Paul Boyle, Caolin Blade, Eoin Griffin, Darragh Leader.
Referee, Frank Murphy, IRFU

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