By John O’Sullivan
Connacht Eagles 24-24 Munster A
A late Shane Jennings try earned the Connacht Eagles a 24-24 draw with Munster A in an entertaining clash at the Sportsground.
Tries from Dylan Tierney Martin and Diarmuid Kilgallen saw the hosts lead 12-0 midway through the first half, but Munster -- with three tries and a penalty -- turned the game around and lead 24-12 with fifteen minutes remaining.
However, Connacht never relented and claimed the draw after late tries from Stephen Kerins and Jennings saw them deservedly share the spoils after a thrilling attacking performance.
In the glorious Sportsground sunshine, Connacht were intent on playing with width and pace and this approach yielded scores early on.
After a cutting line and offload from lock Cian Prendergast, the home team established field position in Munster’s 22. Building phases with hard carries close to the line, the ball was worked to Tierney Martin and the former Ireland under 20’s hooker powered his way over the line. Fitzgerald made no mistake in adding the extras from the tee and the Eagles found themselves in a deserved 7-0 lead.
With their tails up, Connacht were playing with confidence and expression in the attack. Playing in the outside centre berth, Ben O’Donnell punctured through the Munster A defence and brought the hosts forward momentum.
From there, the ball was worked wide and the Eagles -- who had a man advantage after the away teams winger, Calvin Nash was yellow carded for an intentional knock-on -- took advantage of the space and Kilgallen dived in over the line in the left-hand corner for 12-0.
Munster grew into the contest thereafter and when Connacht were reduced to 14 men after Oran McNulty’s yellow card, the visitors responded with a quickfire 17 points. Jake Flannery started the scoring with a penalty and tries followed from Nash and Coombes, both of which Flannery converted, and the away team lead 17-10 going into the interval.
The away team began the second half in a similar manner to which they finished the first and they had their third try when Nash completed his brace by crossing the line in the right-hand corner to take the score to 24-10.
With fly-half Fitzgerald prominent in the creative stakes, Connacht grew into the game and began threatening the Munster defence.
A powerful line out was a prominent feature of the Eagles’ game plan and they used it as a platform to score their third try. With a rolling maul trundling towards the line, Kerins identified a gap in the away teams defence and he jinked through it to touch down for a try that Fitzgerald converted to take the score to 24-17.
With time running out, the hosts seized the initiative and their perseverance was rewarded with a deserved late try.
A huge run from Peter Sullivan burst through the Munster defence and brought Connacht into the visitors 22. From there, the ball was worked wide and Jennings showed pace to touch down in the left corner and to draw the game with effectively the last play.
15. Oran McNulty
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Ben O’Donnell
12. Cathal Forde
11. Diarmuid Kilgallen
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Colm Reilly
1. Charlie Ward
2. Dylan Tierney-Martin
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Cian Prendergast
5. Ciaran Booth
6. Donnacha Byrne
7. Sean Masterson (c)
8. Abraham Papali’i
16. Declan Adamson
17. Eoin de Buitlear
18. Conor Kenny
19. Diarmuid McCormack
20. Oisin McCormack
21. Stephen Kerins
22. Shane Jennings
23. Hubert Gilvarry
24. Joshua Dunne