Huge blow to Munster's bid for a trophy after home loss to Connacht

Reds would have taken a step towards the Rainbow Cup final with a win at Thomond Park
Huge blow to Munster's bid for a trophy after home loss to Connacht

Munster and Connacht players square up at Thomond Park. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Munster 20 Connacht 24

MUNSTER'S hopes of ending the season with silverware took a major blow on Friday night as they were shocked by a determined Connacht side in their Rainbow Cup tie at Thomond Park.

Connacht’s out-half Conor Fitzgerald opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty beneath the Munster posts, but that lead did not last long, as Munster scored with their very first attack.

The move started off a lineout on the Connacht 22 with the ball kept amongst the pack, who made the hard yards phase by phase, with the move ending with loosehead prop James Cronin crashing over from close range in the seventh minute.

Immediately from the kick-off Billy Holland and Shane Daly failed to collect the restart and the lurking former Munster man Sam Arnold collected the loose ball to walk in an easy try in the corner.

The try seemed to signal a shift in the attitudes in both sides, with Connacht’s tails suddenly up and Munster becoming sloppy in their execution, and when Daly was sin-binned in the 22nd minute for a deliberate knock-on you sensed that it wasn’t going to be an easy night for the home side.

Connacht capitalised by scoring an excellent try in the 26th minute with captain Tom Daly feeding Fitzgerald, who became the second former Munster man to score against them when he split centres Dan Goggin and Damian de Allende to dot down next to the Munster posts.

Munster’s Shane Daly with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold of Connacht. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Munster’s Shane Daly with Tom Daly and Sammy Arnold of Connacht. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Munster did not panic, and they worked a penalty near the Connacht line in the 34th minute, and the Munster maul did the necessary damage with hooker Rhys Marshall going over, and Ben Healy converted to get within three points of Connacht at the break.

Almost straight away into the second half more sloppy Munster play led to a breakaway Connacht try from scrum half Kieran Marmion, to make life very uncomfortable from a Munster viewpoint, and a disallowed try for Peter O’Mahony in the 46th minute for an infringement by Jack O’Donoghue certainly did not help either.

Healy then kicked a monster penalty from well inside his own half in the 51st minute to steady the ship, but when they got an opportunity to attack Connacht deep in their 22 Munster’s execution let them down.

Jack O'Donoghue of Munster is tackled by Connacht players Cian Prendergast, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald and Shane Delahunt. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jack O'Donoghue of Munster is tackled by Connacht players Cian Prendergast, John Porch, Conor Fitzgerald and Shane Delahunt. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Replacement No. 10 Joey Carbery slotted a 64th-minute penalty to reduce the arrears to four points, and Munster then had a wonderful Andrew Conway try chalked off in the 69th minute for an alleged knock-on by Damian de Allende in the build-up, and although Munster had one last attack chance to score a winning try they spilt the ball once more and Connacht had a famous win.

Scorers for Munster: Healy (1 pen, 2 cons), Carbery (1 pen), Cronin, Marshall (1 try each).

Connacht: Fitzgerald (1 try, 1 pen, 3 cons), Arnold, Marmion (1 try each).

MUNSTER: Gallagher; Conway, Goggin, de Allende, Daly; Healy, Casey; Cronin, Marshall, Ryan; Kleyn, Holland; O’Donoghue, O'Mahony (c), Stander.

Subs: Murray for Casey (13), Casey for Murray (27), Scannell for Marshall (47), Beirne and Murray for Holland and Casey (52), Kilcoyne and Archer for Cronin and Ryan (59), Carbery for Healy (62), Earls for Gallagher (70), Wycherley for Kleyn (77).

CONNACHT: Porch, Arnold, O'Brien, Daly (c), Wootton, Fitzgerald, Marmion, McAllister, Delahunt, Robertson-McCoy, Murray, Dillane, Prendergast, Oliver, Papali'i.

Subs: Buckley for McAllister (9), McAllister for Buckley (16), Buckley and Bealham for McAllister and Robertson-McCoy (39), Masterson for Oliver (46), Carty for Fitzgerald (54), Heffernan for Delahunt (56), Blade for Marmion (65), Masterson and Sullivan for Papali’I and Arnold (70).

Referee: Daniel Jones (Wales)

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