Planet Rugby

Munster come good in Galway

18th April 2010 19:15

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Paul Warwick Munster

Steady Hand: Paul Warwick steered a new-look Munster across the line

Munster remain on course for the Magners League play-off after securing a hard-fought 18-12 victory over Connacht in Galway on Sunday.

Fielding a back line that included three debutants, Munster led 11-7 at half-time having played with the wind advantage, and a converted try shortly after the break from full-back Scott Deasy ended Connacht's eight-match unbeaten run at the Sportsground.

Number eight George Naoupu, who had another excellent game for Connacht, worked his way over for a try on the hour mark, but despite ending the game in the Munster 22, Michael Bradley's men could not break down the red defensive wall.

The victory moved Munster up to third in the league table, but Connacht, who host Leinster in a rearranged match on Wednesday, will feel this was a missed opportunity.

In a very physical opening quarter, a much-changed Munster set the tone with a big hit by James Coughlan on Connacht captain John Muldoon.

A ruck infringement from Muldoon after four minutes in was punished by a well-struck opening penalty from Paul Warwick.

After a missed drop goal attempt from Munster newcomer Declan Cusack, Connacht's experienced lock Michael Swift got isolated after a meaty tackle from Dave Ryan and Warwick swept his kick over for a 6-0 lead.

But Connacht's first visit to the Munster 22, sparked by an Ian Keatley break, garnered them a well-taken try.

Sean Cronin added some directness to the attack with a powerful burst, and Niva Ta'auso's neat offload sent Johnny O'Connor barrelling over on the right. Keatley's pinpoint conversion made it 7-6.

Connacht continued to see plenty of ball but Munster's big forwards were winning the collisions, as evidenced by Nick Williams' hand-off on Naoupu in the lead-up to Niall Ronan's 31st-minute score.

Williams thundered clear off a ruck, offloading for the supporting Tony Buckley to crash through and into Gavin Duffy's tackle. With Connacht stretched, the overlap was created by Warwick on the right to put Ronan over in the corner.

Warwick missed the difficult conversion and a penalty from inside his own half, while Keatley also went wide from a left-sided penalty as the half ended with Munster four points in front.

The visitors increased their lead just two minutes after the break, as Williams sent Simon Zebo through a gap and the debutant winger popped a one-handed pass for Deasy to go over for a try which Warwick did brilliantly to convert.

Damien Varley, Buckley and captain Mick O'Driscoll rumbled forward to get Munster within sight of the line again, but some tremendous counter-rucking from Muldoon lifted the siege.

A deliberate knock on saw Zebo sin-binned and just a minute later, Naoupu used quick ruck ball to score in the left corner, although replacement Miah Nikora was off target with the conversion attempt.

It was nip and tuck right to the finish but Munster, with young tyros Dave Foley and Peter O'Mahony tackling their hearts out, had enough in reserve to see out their first away win in the league since September.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Tries: O'Connor, Naoupu
Con: Keatley

For Munster:
Tries: Ronan, Deasy
Cons: Warwick
Pens: Warwick 2

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy 14 Troy Nathan 13 Niva Ta'auso 12 Keith Matthews 11 Fionn Carr 10 Ian Keatley 9 Frank Murphy 8 George Naoupu, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 John Muldoon (capt), 5 Bernie Upton, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Michael McCarthy, 19 Mike McComish, 20 Conor O'Loughlin, 21 Miah Nikora, 22 Aidan Wynne.

Munster: 15 Scott Deasy, 14 Simon Zebo, 13 Tom Gleeson, 12 Paul Warwick, 11 Danny Barnes, 10 Declan Cusack, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Niall Ronan, 6 Nick Williams, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Mick O'Driscoll (c), 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Ryan.
Replacements: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Julien Brugnaut, 18 Dave Foley, 19 Peter O'Mahoney, 20 Conor Murray, 21 Jeremy Manning, 22 Sean Scanlon.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)

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