Connacht beat Munster but win comes at a cost

Connacht beat Munster but win comes at a cost

IRISH COACH Andy Farrell will anxiously await news on the extent of an injury picked up by winger Mack Hansen, which forced him off in the closing stages as Connacht ended a five-match losing run with a deserved win in atrocious conditions at the Sportsground.

Hansen required oxygen as he was helped off after suffering an arm/shoulder injury in the closing stages of a fierce battle between these neighbours on a woeful afternoon for rugby.

Connacht, with Cian Prendergast superb, got on top when it mattered most in the second half and inflicted a fourth defeat in their last six meetings against the nearest neighbours for only their ninth league win in 43 meetings.

Munster led 6-3 at the end of an opening half that took over 57 minutes to play as both teams, understandably, struggled to perform in the heavy rain and swirling wind.

Munster, having been forced to make a couple of pre-match changes when hooker Eoghan Clarke and lock Fineen Wycherley were lost to an already lengthy casualty list, then saw tighthead Oli Jager and No.8 Jack O’Donoghue stretchered off during the opening half.

Connacht also lost Cathal Forde early in the game, with Jack Carty coming on at out-half and JJ Hanrahan moving to the centre.

Connacht’s ill-discipline — eight penalties to four — was offset by Munster’s woes in the lineout which saw them lose six of their own throws before the break.

Gavin Coombes, who switched to the second row after Wycherley’s withdrawal, had a try scratched after three minutes when he charged down Caolin Blade’s clearance but had a knee over the dead-ball line by the time he touched down after sliding through. Ironically, Connacht’s Shayne Bolton had a try disallowed just over a week ago against Ulster for the same reason.

Hanrahan got Connacht off the mark with a penalty after 17 minutes from the 22 after John Ryan was pinged for going off his feet. However, Connacht failed to clear their lines from the restart, and Tony Butler levelled five minutes later with a penalty after Jarrad Butler was penalised for not rolling away.

Butler kicked a 70-metre clearance dead with the wind but from his next effort from deep executed a superb 22 only for hooker Scott Buckley’s throw to be crooked and the chance was lost.

Butler edged Munster back in front seven minutes from the break when Finlay Bealham was penalised for offside and Connacht ended the half down a man when winger Byron Ralston was binned for a dangerous tackle that ended O’Donoghue’s afternoon with a knee injury.

Connacht, with the wind behind them on the restart, outscored Munster 3-0 while down the man — Hanrahan converted a 35-metre penalty after Ahern obstructed scrum-half Caolin Blade at a ruck.

Munster, with Tadhg Beirne having a major impact, hit back and worked their way upfield with a few penalties before Butler edged them back in front after Shamus Hurley-Langton was penalised on 58 minutes.

The lead lasted just three minutes as the other No.7 John Hodnett was pinged for offside and Hanrahan made no mistake from 25 metres to tie the game at 9-9.

They went ahead 14 minutes from time when they won a penalty from a scrum and Hanrahan slotted the penalty from 25 metres to lead 12-9.

They doubled the lead eight minutes from time when Hanrahan landed a penalty from 48 metres after another former Munster player, Conor Oliver, ended a sustained period of possession by the visitors with an excellent steal.

Hanrahan was narrowly off target from the halfway line with his fifth penalty five minutes from the end but they wrapped it up when down to 14 men as Hansen had to go off.

Carty found touch from inside his own half to within a few metres of the Munster line — the 50:22 was ruled out as they had taken it back — but Buckley overthrew and while replacement hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin was stopped, the recycle was good and replacement tighthead Jack Aungier made it over. Hanrahan landed the conversion from the right to round off a memorable win.

Scorers: Connacht: Try: Jack Aungier. Pens: JJ Hanrahan (5 from 6). Con: Hanrahan (1 from 1)

Munster: Pens: Tony Butler (3 from 3)

Connacht: Mack Hansen; Byron Ralston, Cathal Forde (Jack Carty ‘9), Bundee Aki, Shayne Bolton; JJ Hanrahan, Caolin Blade (c) (Michael McDonald ’66); Peter Dooley (Denis Buckley ’53), Dave Heffernan (Dylan Tierney-Martin ’65), Finlay Bealham (Jack Aungier ’58); Darragh Murray (Niall Murray ’53), Joe Joyce (Oisin Dowling ’72); Cian Prendergast, Shamus Hurley-Langton (Conor Olover ’61), Jarrad Butler.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell, Shane Daly; Tony Butler (Sean O’Brien ’72), Conor Murray (Paddy Patterson ’75); Jeremy Loughman (Josh Wycherey ’78), Scott Buckley, Oli Jager (John Ryan ’11); Gavin Coombes, Tadhg Beirne (c); Tom Ahern, John Hodnett (Brian Gleeson ’78), Jack O’Donoghue (Alex Kendellen ’40).

Replacements not used: Chris Moore, Shay McCarthy.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU).

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