Munster 20 Connacht 18
A LATE Diarmuid Barron try rescued a vintage derby encounter for Munster as they just about got the better of provincial rivals Connacht in a rip-roaring URC tie at Thomond Park on Saturday night.
Outhalf Jack Carty gave Connacht the perfect start with a penalty from under the posts in the 3rd minute and he repeated the trick in the 10th minute after last week’s man of the match against the Scarlets, Chris Cloete, was penalised at the breakdown.
The pressure was on Munster’s returning first-teamers to perform after the second-string side dismantled the Scarlets in the previous week, but in the first quarter, they failed to fire, as a malfunctioning lineout undermined a lot of their early attacking play. Indeed, Munster were fortunate that left-wing Mack Hansen had an early try disallowed for a forward pass by Tiernan O’Halloran.
With Munster really struggling to get into the game they got some help in this regard in the 33rd minute when a yellow card was issued to Connacht’s former Munster centre Sam Arnold for a high tackle on Mike Haley in midfield.
Munster had barely fired a shot in the first half but in the 39th minute, they managed to score the first try out of nothing. The entire Connacht defence had all been dragged inside, after Haley, Keith Earls and Andrew Conway had all combined to make huge ground down the right flank. The lack of numbers out wide was spotted by Rory Scannell, who launched a wonderful cross-field kick to the left-wing, where four Munster players were loitering.
Tadhg Beirne was one of these, and the big lock managed to trap the ball soccer-style before toeing it over the tryline, and Munster’s best player in the opening half Cloete was there to dive on the loose kick to score, to give Munster a 7-6 half time lead, somewhat against the run of play.
Munster dominated territory and possession at the start of the second half and they were rewarded with a simple three-pointer for Joey Carbery in the 49th minute to stretch their lead.
However, Connacht were not going away, and they worked their way down the pitch and won a penalty five metres from the Munster line. They opted to take a tap and go and the decision paid off as number eight Paul Boyle simply tapped and dived clear over Cloete and Jean Kleyn to score the easiest of tries in the 53rd minute. Crucially Carty missed the conversion to keep Munster within a point.
Munster capitalised on this miss just six minutes later as Joey Carbery slotted a 35m penalty to push Munster back into a 13-11 lead after Connacht had been blown for collapsing a Munster maul.
Then a huge moment in the game arrived and for Munster, it was a horrible one. Joey Carbery took an absolute age to clear his lines and he allowed his opposite number Jack Carty time to close him down, and he charged down his lazy kick and was able to walk in a simple score under the posts.
Munster then spurned a number of three-pointer opportunities to go for the kill and after being stopped a number of times just short Munster eventually got their due reward when Diarmuid Barron burrowed over from close range in the 78th minute, and Carbery made up for his error by slotting the conversion to win the game for Munster.