Munster Edge It At The Sportsground
30th December 2006 By Munster Rugby
Munster came from behind to defeat Connacht 14-8 in truly awful conditions at The Sportsground.
They led 6-3 at half time having played with the gale at their backs, trailed 8-6 early in the second half but then rolled up their sleeves to carve a deserved victory.
Munster played with the gale at their backs in the opening half and turned down the opportunity of three points in the 11th minute opting instead for a close-in lineout that was robbed by a Connacht side who were playing the better football. They lost David Gannon at that stage with an ankle injury but continued to play the cuter game and after a phase of keep-ball worked their way into position for Mark McHugh to kick them into a 22nd minute lead with a penalty from the 22 metre line.
It was a lead that lasted just over a minute, Jeremy Manning equalising after Connacht were penalised for not releasing.
In the 31st minute Connacht failed to deal with a Tomas O’Leary garryowen and when they were penalised at the resultant scrum Manning kicked Munster ahead (6-3). They held that lead until the half time break although were fortunate to do so as Connacht laid siege to their line and John O’Sullivan found himself binned in injury time of that opening half.
Munster sprung Paul O’Connell, John Hayes, Trevor Halstead and Ronan O’Gara from the bench for the second half but O’Gara lasted just four minutes for questioning referee David Keane’s decision to award a try to Connacht. That came from a Connacht line-out throw that was clearly crooked which may have explained O’Gara’s angst. McHugh was wide with the conversion.
Reduced now to 13 Munster rolled up their sleeves and ground their way into the Connacht 22. O’Sullivan returned as did O’Gara and after a succession of drives for the line they went back in front (11-8) with a try from Tomas O’Leary in the 57th minute.
O’Leary who was superb throughout, came close again in the right hand corner as Munster continued to press but Connacht lifted the siege when O’Connell was penalised for not releasing.
But Munster went back to basics employing their pick and drive game to good effect and a high tackle on O’Gara should have allowed the 10 to extend his side’s lead but he drove his effort wide. However he made no mistake in the 39th minute of a Munster dominated second half to extend Munster’s lead and give them a win that moves them six points clear of Connacht.
Munster: C Cullen; T O’Leary, B Murphy (T Halstead ht), L Mafi, S Payne; J Manning (R O’Gara ht), P Stringer capt; D Hurley (J Hayes ht), F Sheahan, F Pucciariello; D O’Callaghan, C Wyatt (P O’Connell ht); J O’Sullivan, D Wallace, J Coughlan’
Connacht: D Riordan; K Matthews J Hearty 73rd min), P Warwick, G Williams D Yapp; M McHugh, C Keane; B Wilkinson, J Fogarty capt, S Knoop, D Gannon (Michael Swift 14th min), A Farley; J Muldoon (M Lacey 29th min ), R Ofisa, , C Rigney.