Connacht outscored Munster three tries to one to win 24-16 in Thursday’s Pro12 Irish derby at the Sportsground in Galway.
A second-half fight back saw Connacht retain their unbeaten record on home soil this season.
In a rainy opening, Munster burst out of the blocks, and had a 13 point lead after just 15 minutes. Peter O’Mahony scored his side’s opening try, and they were accompanied with 11 points from the boot of Ian Keatley, in a perfect half for the kicker.
But Connacht fought back from the early deficit, and Kieran Marmion went over the line after 30 minutes to narrow the scores.
The second half began with the home side’s second try, fly-half Craig Ronaldson going over, as Connacht managed to edge into the lead.
And on the hour mark, they stretched it with another try courtesy of Aly Muldowney.
The game began with an old home favourite getting the first points for the visitors, as the ever-impressive Keatley fired a penalty through just three minutes in.
In what was a lightening start, Munster got the game’s first try after 12 minutes. It was Munster captain O’Mahony who went over, after the visitors drove forward following a line-out, eventually forcing the maul over the line. And that allowed Keatley to superbly kick through the posts for the extra two points.
The early dominance continued as Keatley kicked through his third score inside 15 minutes, and home fans could have been excused for being wary of the coming hour. But their team slowly got themselves back into the tie, and half an hour in they went over for a try. It came courtesy of Marmion, who was fed by Robbie Henshaw, after he collected a chip forward and offloaded to Marmion.
Ronaldson converted on a night that was not ideal for kickers, yet both he and Keatley defied nature to keep the score ticking.
Connacht fought forward in the final ten minutes of the half, but conceded three more points to the boot of Keatley two minutes before half-time.
The home side continued their pressure into the second half, and it took just two minutes for them to get another try. Ronaldson was the man who went over, but neat build up from Henshaw and Bundee Aki made it possible, and there was no mistake as Darragh Leader converted, who took over kicking duties as Ronaldson was forced off with injury.
Connacht continued their revival, as Miah Nikora fired through another penalty, seeing his side take the lead for the first time. And they were not willing to let that go, as Muldowney powered over the line on the hour mark.
A scrum saw Marmion break to the line, and though they were held up, the home side managed to drive over with Muldowney the man with ball in hand. Leader’s conversion gave an eight point lead in a wonderful second half for Pat Lam’s side.
Munster threw everything forward in the closing stages, but were unable to break the Connacht backline, who saw through the eight point victory with a wonderful second half performance.
Tries: Marmion, Ronaldson, Muldowney
Cons: Ronaldson, Leader 2
Try: P. O’Mahony
Pens: Keatley 3
Connacht: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Danie Poolman, 10 Craig Ronaldson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 John Muldoon (c), 5 Aly Muldowney, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 George Naoupu, 21 John Cooney, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Dave McSharry.
Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Pat Howard, 12 JJ Hanrahan, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Billy Holland, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 John Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Eusebio Guinazu, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O’Callaghan, 20 Dave O’Callaghan, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Ivan Dineen.
Venue: The Sportsground, Galway
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland) and Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)