Guinness PRO12

Munster 50-14 Connacht

Connacht finished their Guinness PRO12 campaign with a defeat to Munster at Thomond Park ahead of the Champions Cup play-off semi-final against either Northampton Saints or Gloucester in two weeks (date to be confirmed).

The loss confirmed an eighth-placed finish for Connacht but Champions Cup qualification is still within reach and they will face the seventh placed Premiership finishers, Northampton, or Gloucester, if the Kingsholm outfit can beat Stade Francais in next week’s Challenge Cup decider.

Cian Kelleher and replacement Naulia Dawai were the Connacht try-scorers in Limerick as an in-form Munster side ran out deserving winners.

Most of the damage was done in the first half as Connacht turned around trailing 24-0. The Westerners were able to stem the tide somewhat after the interval however, and showed good heart to battle back in the second 40.

The hosts made the better start and opened the scoring on six minutes as Ian Keatley put Dan Goggin through a gap with Keith Earls touching down under the posts.

Tom Farrell, who impressed throughout, looked the most threatening for Connacht with Danie Poolman and Tiernan O’Halloran making forays down the flanks but the Munster defence scrambled well.

Jack Carty very nearly set up Poolman with a crossfield kick but the winger couldn’t hold onto the ball.

Having been unable to get any points on the board after a good spell, Connacht were clinically punished as Man of the Match Keatley added to his earlier conversion with the game’s first penalty on 24 minutes.

Four minutes later, Jack O’Donoghue barged over in the left corner and Keatley’s touchline conversion made it 17-0.

An outstanding Kieran Marmion tackle on Conor Oliver prevented another Munster five-pointer but the hosts scored a third try before the break after winning a turnover in the Connacht half as Conway dived over in the right corner.

 

Facing into the second half 22-0 down, Connacht had to dig in and the cause wasn’t helped on 43 minutes as James Cronin burrowed his way over.

The visitors were off the mark thanks to a superb score with less than half an hour to go as Carty’s perfectly-weighted crossfield kick found Kelleher to score in the right corner.

Craig Ronaldson added the conversion superbly but Munster hit back moments later as Conway touched down in the left corner and Keatley made it 38-7 with his fourth conversion.

Connacht refused to give in and scored a second try through Naulia Dawai after a rolling maul in the left corner with Ronaldson again on the money to bring the scoreboard to 38-14.

Munster finished with a flourish, however, as Saili capitalised on an error to score under the posts before Conor Oliver went over in the right corner on the final whistle.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran (Darragh Leader, 69); Danie Poolman, Tom Farrell, Craig Ronaldson, Cian Kelleher; Jack Carty (Marnitz Boshoff, 66-71), Kieran Marmion (John Cooney, 59); Denis Buckley (JP Cooney, 60), Shane Delahunt (Dave Heffernan, 63), Conor Carey (Finlay Bealham, 44-66, 70); Quinn Roux (Sean O’Brien, 54), Andrew Browne; Eoin McKeon, James Connolly (Naulia Dawai, 54), John Muldoon (C).

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