Connacht scuttle Munster
Munster   24     Connacht    25
Connacht spoiled the party for Munster in Cork on Saturday when they beat the men in red to deny them wining the Junior rugby Interprovincial title for the first time in five years.
The presence of Ronan O’Gara at the Munster team talk before the match gave an indication of the intentions of the Munster men but this Connacht Juniors squad were determined to improve on their previous performances against Ulster and Leinster and sign off with a win.
The early exchanges were as expected, tough and hard upfront, with no quarter asked or given. Connacht however were superior in the scrum and more than once pushed Munster off their own ball. Castlebar’s Tom McAuliffe had an excellent start in the lineout and robbed three Munster lineout’s in the first 20 minutes. All this pressure paid off when Westport winger Kevin Corcoran finished off an excellent backline move to score in the corner to leave the score at 5 – 0.
Munster responded and scored a forwards try through their wing forward Glen Deacon to tie up the scores at 5-5 with 32 minutes on the clock.
Outhalf, Sligo’s Paddy Pearson, used Connacht’s wind advantage to great effect with some excellent tactical kicking and he made an excellent line break to put centre Jordan Farringdon in to score a try for the third week in a row. Pearson duly added the conversion to leave the score at 12-5.
A late tackle on outhalf Pearson resulted in a penalty to Connacht near the touchline on Munster’s 30 metre line which Pearson duly converted to leave the half time score at 15 -5 to the visitors.
Munster, seeing the title slipping from their grasp, came out with huge intensity for the second half and within five minutes had opened up a two point lead.
Daragh Joyce went in for a try which was converted by outhalf Daragh Meade who followed up with a try of his own two minutes later leaving Munster 17 – 15 ahead after only five minutes.
Connacht regrouped and some tactical substitutions steadied their defence but they were caught napping after 60 minutes when winger Barry Collins pounced on a defence slip by Connacht and went in under the posts. Meade converted easily and left Munster 24 – 15 ahead and champions designate.
However this Connacht team has skill and pride which they showed in abundance during the last twenty minutes. The forwards once again started to dominate and they were rewarded after 74 minutes when Corrib’s Martin Lee touched down after a forward ruck and maul. Pearson failed with the touchline conversion but Connacht were now back within striking distance at 24-20 down.
Connacht continued to play expansive rugby and were rewarded with two minutes to go when winger Kevin Corcoran beat three defenders on a run from the half way line to score in the corner.
Connacht now lead by a single point, 25-24, and played out the remaining two minutes, and three minutes injury time, by tightly controlling the ball in the forwards, assisted by some excellent line kicking from substitute outhalf Eoin Cosgrove.
The scenes of joy for the Connacht team and supporters at the final whistle were only matched by the shock and horror for the Munster contingent as they came to terms with their last minute defeat.
They were however gracious in their acceptance of defeat and acknowledged that Connacht were worthy winners. This was the second year in a row that Connacht had defeated Munster in this competition.
So a campaign that ended with a victory for Connacht but a campaign where the squad and management had set their sights on higher achievements.
Indeed the loss to Leinster the previous week, where Connacht were leading with ten minutes to go, was crucial as this meant that Leinster were crowned champions. Had Connacht held on for victory in that match they would have been champions for the first time ever


Gallery: University of Galway hosts Kay Bowen Cup