WATCH: Munster hang on to seal drama-filled PRO14 derby win over Connacht

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent


Munster hang on to seal drama-filled PRO14 derby win over Connacht

Centre Chris Farrell powers over for Munster's first half try in their Guinness PRO14 interprovincial win over Connacht in Galway on Saturday night

PHEW! What drama. Resilient Munster cemented their position at the top of Conference B of the Guinness PRO14 after scoring a nail-biting 16-10 derby victory over Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday night.

Munster looked to have the game in safe-keeping when leading 16-3 after 77 minutes. However, a dramatic converted try from Connacht and two Munster sin-binnings left the game up for grabs as the clocked ticked into the red zone.

Connacht had an opportunity to sneak the most unlikely of wins when awarded a last gasp penalty deep inside the Munster '22. The home side opted to keep it tight, despite having a two-man advantage. A timely intervention from Man of the Match  Tadhg Beirne which forced a Connacht knock-on close to Munster's tryline ultimately turned the outcome in their favour.

A strong Munster line-up, including their returning Ireland internationals, had looked set for a far more comfortable win in this top-of-the-table clash in Galway after those drama-filled final minutes.

A first half try from centre Chris Farrell proved a crucial score as Munster ultimately made it six wins on the bounce against Connacht.

While Farrell struck for the game's opening try in the 18th minute, out-half JJ Hanrahan added 11 points with the boot as Munster got back to winning ways after an experimental side suffered defeat to Ulster in Belfast seven days earlier.

Munster, who have won eight of their nine PRO14 fixtures this season, bossed the breakdown throughout where Johann van Graan's charges won several key turnover penalties. 

Their visitors used their powerful driving maul to telling effect, making big yardage with it, especially in the opening half after which they held a useful 10-3 advantage.

Munster enjoyed a significant let-off in the fourth minute when Jack Carty was off target with a very kickable penalty attempt after JJ Hanrahan was penalised for not releasing after making a tackle inside his own '22.

Became came Munster in the greasy wet, freezing conditions and following an excellent driving maul which made decent yardage, the home side was penalised on their own '22. Hanrahan duly landed the award for a 3-0 advantage, while Connacht's Shane Delahunt was yellow carded for pulling down the maul.

Munster made the most of their numerical advantage when scoring the game's opening try in the 19th minute. James Cronin helped earn the field position when winning a turnover penalty.

The visitors used their excellent driving maul to great effect to make yardage. Munster used their forwards to carry the ball deep inside the home side's '22 before centre Chris Farrell barged over from close range.

Hanrahan added the conversion as Munster racked up 10 points while Delahunt was off the pitch.

Connacht did manage to make some inroads into Munster's advantage in first half stoppage time when the visitors were penalised at scrum-time and and Carty made no mistake for 3-10 at the interval.

Munster hit the ground running at the start of the second half when Hanrahan landed his second penalty of the contest in the 43rd minute.

The visitors added to their lead just after the hour mark when, following a passage of excellent rugby, ignited by a well-executed strike play, Munster forced another penalty and Hanrahan again dissected the posts for 16-3.

It was Hanrahan's final act in the game as he was then replaced by Ben Healy in the play-maker role.

Connacht did manage a consolation try late on when Peter Sullivan dotted down in the corner in the 79th minute after Munster had lost replacement Rory Scannell to a yellow card.

Jack Carty's superb conversion from a tight angle ensured the home side secured a last gasp losing bonus point.

In a drama-filled closing to the game Jack Carty found Dillane with a pinpoint crossfield kick and it took some excellent cover defence to prevent Sullivan from getting over again.

Munster were down to 13 players when McCarthy was yellow-carded as the clock ticked into the red. 

Connacht opted for a scrum off the penalty as Munster were down to 13 players. A terrific intervention from Tadhg Beirne forced a knock-on from the home side while within touching distance of the tryline. 

Munster held on for a dramatic success.

SCORERS: Connacht: Peter Sullivan try, Jack Carty pen, con. Munster: Chris Farrell try, JJ Hanrahan three pens, con.

CONNACHT: John Porch; Ben O'Donnell, Sam Arnold, Tom Daly, Alex Wootton; Jack Carty, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Quinn Roux (capt), Sean O'Brien, Conor Oliver, Sean Masterson. Replacements: Dave Heffernan for Masterson (15-20 mins), Paul Boyle for O'Brien (42 mins), Peter Sullivan for O'Donnell (50 mins), Dave Heffernan for Buckley, Matthew Burke for Delahunt (both 50 mins), Dominic Robertston-McCoy for Bealham (53 mins), Kieran Marmion for Blade, Gavin Thornbury for Masterson (54 mins).

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Kevin O'Byrne, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Gavin Coombes, Peter O'Mahony (capt), CJ Stander. Replacements: Fineen Wycherley for Kleyn (15 mins), Niall Scannell for O'Byrne, Keynan Knox for Archer (both 53 mins), Josh Wycherley for Cronin (61 mins), Billy Holland for Coombes (64 mins), Rory Scannell for Daly (70 mins).

REFEREE: Frank Murphy (Ireland)