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Only One Outcome Will Suffice

May 6, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Only One Outcome Will Suffice

They may be home n hosed as far as a home semi final is concerned but this evening Munster will face a serious examination when they take on Connacht in the final round of the Magners League at Thomond Park Stadium(7.05)

With the events of last weekend still fresh in supporter's minds Paul O'Connell and co know that they have to deliver a quality performance as a first small step to assuage the widespread disappointment with last weekend's display and exit from the Amlin.

But like Harlequins, the Westerners will not turn up to have their bellies tickled as they conclude their best ever Magners League campaign. They'll also be buoyed by the knowledge that Leinster will almost certainly provide them with Heineken Cup football next season while their departing contingent Fionn Carr, Ian Keatley, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagen and Troy Nathan will be looking to bid adieu in the best possible fashion.

Munster coach Tony McGahan plays the youth card with twentysomethings Simon Zebo, Danny Barnes, Mick Sherry, Stepen Archer, Ian Nagle and Tommy O'Donnell all included in the nmatch day squad, Zebo's presence in place of Keith Earls should maintain the threat posed by the Munster back three.

Connacht's full back Gavin Duffy was in Thomond Park last weekend to see at first hand the eclipse of tonight's opponents. Duffy was in the Press Box alongside Ian Dowling commentating on happenings for Newstalk but this time around he'll be looking to impress in the hope of securing a place in Declan Kidney's World Cup squad.

His main rival for that spot will of course be his direct rival this evening, Jones, whose recent rich vein of form makes him a strong contender he being just one of just four retained from last weekend.

All to play for again tonight when we can expect Connacht to take Munster on upfront and look to create space out wide for the League's most potent finisher Fionn Carr.

Munster: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, D Barnes, S Zebo; R O'Gara, T O'Leary; M Horan, M Sherry, J Hayes; D Ryan, P O'Connell (capt); A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Leamy. Reps: D Varley, W du Preez, S Archer, I Nagle, T O'Donnell, P Stringer, P Warwick, D Hurley.

Connacht: G Duffy; B Tuohy, E Griffin, M Nikora, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M McCarthy, B Upton; A Browne, J O'Connor (capt), J Muldoon. Reps: A Flavin, R Loughney, D Rogers, D Nolan, M McComish, C Willis, T Nathan, T O'Halloran.

Referee; David Wilkinson.

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Final Round Flourish

May 6, 2011 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Final Round Flourish

Munster got themselves back on track with a hard fought and thoroughly deserved 22-6 win over Connacht in front of a near 11,000 crowd at Thomond Park Stadium.

They now face Ospreys in the semi final after the Welsh side eeked out a narrow win in Aironi while Leinster take on Ulster in the other semi, the prospect of a Munster/Leinster final looming ever larger.

Munster led 12-6 at the break after tries from Simon Zebo and crowd favourite Alan Quinlan with Ronan O'Gara adding the convert to the latter. Connacht's Ian Keatley, after seeing his first effort deflected wide by the right upright, landed two penalties, the second a massive effort from the half way line.

When play resumed in the second half O'Gara extended the lead with a penalty but they had to wait until the 73rd minute for their next score, a try from that master poacher Doug Howlett who sped onto a delightful kick ahead from Paul Warwick.

In between those scores Connacht, who were committed and competitive throughout, had their chances. Clever interplay on the West Stand touchline had Sean Cronin steaming for the line only to be hauled down just metres short and then Keatley missed a penalty six minutes later that might have given his side impetus at a crucial stage.

Biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Quinlan when he departed the scene in the 72nd minute – making way for Ian Nagle, who later in the night would receive the Young Player of the Year Award at the Irish Examiner sponsored Awards ceremony – the perceived wisdom being that it may have been his last appearance on a stage he has graced for so long.

However, Tony McGahan insists he remains very much a part of immediate Munster plans. "There may potentially be two games remaining and selections will have to be looked at as we move on" he said while the man himself said,"I've only a couple of weeks left with Munster.

"I haven't been involved much of late but I've trained hard and I'll prepare and train as best as I can again next week. If I was to be involved next week I'd be delighted and if I'm not I'll do my best to help the team."

His try in the 38th minute helped his side no end because at that stage they trailed 6-5 coming towards the end of a fairly uninspiring first half that had started brightly from a Munster point of view.

Zebo did extremely well to gather a Johne Murphy kick for a try after just six minutes but Connacht, with the wind at their backs, shook off that setback to take the lead thanks to those two Keatley penalties.

Nor did they throw in the trowel as they faced into a stiffening breeze in the second half. After O'Gara had extended Munster's lead, we had the Cronin moment and then Gavin Duffy touched down after a Troy Nathan break only to be whistled back for an earlier incident involving Johnny O'Connor that lost Connacht the try and earned Munster a penalty on half way.

Just as well maybe because in the lead up to that Duffy 'try' a clear knock on by Fionn Carr was missed by the match officials.

Keatley's subsequent penalty kick ended any hope of a Connacht revival and Munster's lead never looked in any real danger.

Munster: F Jones (P Warwick 45-54; 72 mins); D Howlett, J Murphy, D Barnes, S Zebo (D Hurley 56 min); R O'Gara, T O'Leary (P Stringer 50 min); M Horan (W du Preexz 53 min), M Sherry, J Hayes (S Archer 60 min); D Ryan, P O'Connell (capt); A Quinlan (I Nagle 72 min), N Ronan, D Leamy (T O'Donnell 68 min).

Connacht: G Duffy; B Tuohy, E Griffin, M Nikora, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M McCarthy, B Upton; A Browne, J O'Connor (capt), J Muldoon. Replacements: A Flavin, R Loughney, D Rogers, D Nolan, M McComish, C Willis, T Nathan, T O'Halloran.

Referee: David Wilkinson.

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