Connacht were narrowly defeated by Munster in the United Rugby Championship tonight in a keenly fought contest at Thomond Park.
Despite a converted try and two penalties from Jack Carty and a Paul Boyle touchdown, the visitors were ultimately pipped by the hosts who had two Joey Carbery penalties and conversions and tries from Chris Cloete and Diarmuid Barron to thank for their points.
Connacht started the game with breakneck tempo and they had a score to show for their efforts after barely a minute of play.
A well-orchestrated set-piece routine saw Mack Hansen speed through a gap and offload to Bundee Aki, who, in turn, found Conor Oliver with a pass. Munster infringed and the away team were awarded a penalty that Carty slotted with ease to open the scoring at 3-0.
After absorbing pressure from the hosts, the Westerners launched an attack of their own and this yielded a penalty which Carty -- showing composure -- slotted to make it 6-0 for the away team in what was proving to be a profitable opening ten minutes.
Munster were in the ascendancy, in terms of possession and territory, but Connacht -- with Aki, Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver especially prominent -- were resolute in defence, be it at the breakdown, maul or in open play.
The Westerners -- who were reduced to 14 men temporarily when Sammy Arnold was unfortunate to slip into a high tackle -- held the hosts at bay until the stroke of half time but Cloete, diving on a deflected kick through, pounced on a ball in the 22 to score the games first try. Carbery converted and Connacht went into the interval trailing by a point at 7-6.
The home team began the second half in a similar manner to the way they ended the first and they capitalised on this when Carbery scored the first points of the second period with a penalty to take the score to 10-6 in favour of Munster.
Connacht weren’t deterred, however, and they wrestled their way back into the game and earned a number of penalties deep in the Munster 22 with enterprising attacks. Showing quick thinking, number eight Boyle chose to take a quick tap penalty and he dove in for the Westerners’ first try of the evening and the away team took the lead at 11-10.
The leads swapped hands again when Carbery kicked Munster back into the lead with a penalty to set up a tense final twenty-minutes.
Connacht kept in the fight, however, and they were rewarded for their doggedness when Carty -- showing determination -- charged down a kick from Carbery before collecting the ricochet to touch down for a try that he converted to give the away team an 18-13 lead.
In what was a topsy turvy encounter, Munster were next to take the lead when Barron barged over from short range for a try that Carbery converted to take the score to 20-18 to the home team.
That’s the way the contest ended and the home team narrowly took the intepro, 20-18.
15: Tiernan O’Halloran
14: John Porch
13: Sammy Arnold
12: Bundee Aki
11: Mack Hansen
10: Jack Carty
9: Caolin Blade
8: Paul Boyle
7: Conor Oliver
6: Cian Prendergast
5: Ultan Dillane
4: Niall Murray
3: Finlay Bealham
2: Dave Heffernan
1: Matthew Burke.
Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Greg McGrath for Matthew Burke, Jack Aungier for Finlay Bealhan, Eoghan Masterson for Ultan Dillane, Abraham Papali’i for Boyle, Kieran Marmion for Blade, Jarrad Butler for Prendergast, Tom Daly.