Mun­ster weather Con­nacht storm

Con­nacht Tries: Cons: Pens: Mun­ster Tries: Cons: Pens: 16 20

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports News -

MUN­STER WARMED up for their lit­tle tête-à-tête with Le­in­ster next Satur­day by re­claim­ing sec­ond place be­hind the lead­ers and in the process nar­rowed their lee­way to eight points. They did so by weath­er­ing a high-oc­tane Con­nacht storm with the kind of op­por­tunist, smash-and-grab away win which was an­other state­ment of their strength in depth.

Even with­out five of their half­dozen Ir­ish con­tin­gent, the im­pact of their three for­ward re­place­ments – Mar­cus Ho­ran, Mike Sherry and Tommy O’don­nell – was a key fac­tor. The lat­ter was a pre-planned half-time re­place­ment for David Wal­lace, and as well as their rested quin­tet and for­wards coach An­thony Fo­ley all re­turn­ing this week, af­ter­wards coach Tony Mcga­han in­ti­mated that Conor Mur­ray may be closer to match fit­ness than Paul O’con­nell.

“Paul is still mak­ing solid progress and Conor is in the same boat, so we’ll get a bit more of a read on them on Mon­day and Tues­day,” he said, be­fore adding: “Paul is doubt­ful.”

No less than this af­fair, the sum­mit meet­ing be­tween Heineken Cup and Pro12 reign­ing cham­pi­ons should also be a use­ful way of fast-track­ing their readi­ness for the Euro quar­ter-fi­nals a week later.

Mcga­han con­ceded Mun­ster didn’t match Con­nacht’s in­ten­sity in the first half here, and that they had to make their line speed sharper and straighter in de­fence.

“They’re a very good side. Their con­sis­tency and the hard­ness with which they play has been ter­rific. We cer­tainly knew that com­ing here and the way we de­fended at the back end of the game was a won­der­ful way to fin­ish.”

The Sports­ground, with its su­perb play­ing top, looked re­splen­dent, with a record 7,022 at­ten­dance.

“We were the bet­ter team in the first half, and we were cer­tainly the bet­ter team for most of the game,” said Eric El­wood, “but any team would be dis­ap­pointed with the two sys­tem er­rors we had in de­fence which cost us 14 points.”

Gavin Duffy was again im­mense at the back, John Mul­doon, Ray Ofisa et al led the charge up front, Frank Mur­phy gave a mas­ter­class in pass­ing as, for long stretches of this match they took the game to Mun­ster. Their per­for­mance reached its zenith in the sec­ond quar­ter when a clever li­ne­out move saw Mur­phy pop a re­verse pass for Kyle Tonetti to ghost through. Mick O’driscoll was binned for hold­ing back Ethiene Rey­necke and their chance ap­peared to be gone when Henry Fa’afili’s un­der-arm pass then failed to find the hooker be­fore Rey­necke was at the sharp end of a su­perbly sus­tained maul­ing try.

But there­after, for all their huff­ing and puff­ing, they couldn’t blow down Mun­ster’s de­fence. There was a bat­tle royal in time­con­sum­ing, poorly con­trolled scrums, where Brett Wilkinson and Ro­nan Lough­ney put it up to their more cel­e­brated South African op­po­nents, but machismo per­haps got the bet­ter part of val­our when Con­nacht opted for an­other scrum from an in­di­rect

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