It was a masterful display by Munster, running in eight tries in all and creating a number of other scoring opportunities. Munster set the tone for the match within the first two minutes. From the kick-off, Outhalf Vivian Boland kicked for field position. The ball was collected by Connacht just out side their 22m line, and they tried to counter attack. An excellent chase by Munster isolated the Connacht ball carrier and the ball was turned over and quickly swung wide. Inside Centre Patrique Kelly attacked the Connacht defence and beat two would-be tacklers to score between the posts. Boland slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead after just 2 minutes.
Connacht quickly regrouped and made life difficult for Munster. Excellent defence stopped two further scores, with solid tackling knocking the ball loose from Number 8 Joy Neville and Boland just as they were going for tries during that period. Boland did, however, keep the scoreboard ticking over with a penalty in the 13th minute. In the 27th minute Munster got a penalty close to the Connacht try line, but wide out near the touchline. A quick tap was taken and after a couple of phases Neville dove over for her first try for Munster. Boland missed the conversion, leaving the score at 15-0.
Three minutes later the backs were in action. From a mid-field scrum on the Munster side of halfway, the backs went with a split formation. The ball was moved left with Fullback Amanda Greensmith coming into the line at pace, she linked with Left Winger Lynn Cantwell who outpaced the Connacht defence to score from almost 40m out. Boland added the extras, and after keeping Munster at bay for a sustained spell, Connacht was now looking at a 22-0 deficit. This was redressed somewhat within a minute of the restart, with Munster conceding a penalty in front of their posts, about 35m out. Connacht Scrumhalf Angela Flarerty struck the ball well to get Connacht on the scoreboard at 22-3.
As the half was drawing to a close, Munster again worked their way deep into Connacht territory. From a catch and drive lineout, Neville again was on hand to finish off excellent work by the forwards. Boland missed the conversion, with the first half ending at 29-3 in favour of Munster.
As the first half started, so did the second, with a Munster try within 2 minutes of the kick off. A back row move from a scrum sent Openside Flanker Fiona Steed attacking down the short side. She fed Cantwell who again beat her marker for pace. With the cover defence coming across, Cantwell passed inside to replacement Fullback SarahJane Belton who found the line with a strong run and a long stretch. Boland's last conversion attempt missed, but Munster had cracked 30 points with 38 minutes to go.
The Munster Coaches of Mark Andrews and Rohan West proceeded to make a number of substitutions, and the new look XV took awhile to settle into a cohesive pattern. When the women in red found their combinations, they exploded for another 17 points in the last 17 minutes of the match.
Hooker Regina O'Riely was instrumental in the next two scores. From defensive Connacht scrums, O'Riely secured two strikes against the head. From the first, new Number 8 Wendy Keenan detached and linked with the backs, quick hands got the ball to Belton who scored in the corner. Munster led 37-3 after 63 minutes. Five minutes later, another strike against the head for O'Riely allowed Keenan to pick and drive 5m from the Connacht line, scoring between the posts. Belton made the conversion for a 44-3 lead. One more flowing attack from Munster gave Cantwell two tries for the day. Excellent passing and support between forwards and backs saw replacement Flanker Monica Dunne and Belton both making good draw and pass decisions close to the line to give Cantwell a free run in to score. A missed conversion ended the scoring at 49-3.
The Munster coaches were naturally delighted with the result. Mark Andrews commenting "The style of the victory makes it even more special. It was a terrific performance. We'll savour the win for a day or two, but then we have to refocus for our last match against a rapidly improving Leinster side." His co-coach Rohan West added "To score so many tries off set pieces is particularly pleasing. That shows the team is making good decisions and executing perfectly. They really were on top of their game today."
Among the 22 outstanding contributions of the day, Second Row Rosie Foley and Scrumhalf Louise Beamish were singled out for special mention. Foley was a tower of strength all over the park on offence and defence, while Beamish distributed quickly and cleanly and made a number of incisive breaks from the rucks and mauls.
Confirming the weekends other match, Leinster upset last year's runners up Ulster, 11-3 in Naas.
Munster's last match is against Leinster, at Clonmel RFC on Saturday November 2, with a 2:30 kick off.
Amanda Greensmith (Shannon), Claire O'Leary (UL-Bohs) replaced by SarahJane Belton (UL-Bohs - 40 minutes), Jennifer O'Leary (UL-Bohs) replaced by Deirdre Lynch (Highfield - 40 minutes), Patrique Kelly (UL-Bohs), Lynn Cantwell (UL-Bohs), Vivian Boland (Shannon) replaced by Alison Donnelly (Highfield - 47 minutes), Louise Beamish (UL-Bohs), Olivia Brown (Shannon) replaced by Laura Guest (Clonakilty - 67 minutes), Regina O'Riely (Shannon), Rosemary Brown (Shannon) replaced by Jean Lonergan (Shannon - 47 minutes), Aisling O'Brien (Clonakilty), Rosie Foley (Shannon), Maeve Quirk (UL-Bohs), Fiona Steed - Captain (Shannon) replaced by Monica Dunne (Shannon - 58 minutes), Joy Neville (Shannon) replaced by Wendy Keenan (Shannon - 55 minutes)
Munster 49 vs. Connacht 3 Highfield RFC, Cork - Saturday, October 12, 2002
Scorers: Tries: Cantwell 2, Neville 2, Belton, Keenan. Cons: Boland 2, Belton. Pens: Boland.