Belfast Telegraph

Farrell leads the charge as Connacht peg back Munster

Connacht 20 Munster 16

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Joe Schmidt chose not to grace the Sportsground with his presence last night, instead sending a delegation of assistant coaches and no doubt Andy Farrell, Greg Feek and Richie Murphy will have plenty to tell their boss when they next meet up.

Andrew Conway's red card tipped the balance of a rip-roaring clash as a moment of Tom Farrell brilliance secured Connacht's second Guinness PRO14 win of the season.

In a week when they were both left out of Schmidt's squad, Simon Zebo and Tiernan O'Halloran scored a try apiece and a suspension for Conway, who caught Jack Carty late and high with his elbow in the 62nd minute, could yet open the door for one of them.

The game opened at a furious pace and Munster established a foot-hold in opposition territory.

Just four minutes had elapsed when they crossed in Galway as two of the players omitted by Schmidt combined brilliantly.

Munster had established an attacking opportunity in the Connacht '22' with a scrum, but the home side got the nudge and when the ball spilled out Kieran Marmion looked to counter.

Instead, he failed to gather the ball and Rory Scannell raced in and picked up well, off-loading out of the tackle to Simon Zebo who wasn't going to be stopped from close range. Ian Keatley converted.

Connacht settled into their phase-play before Bundee Aki brilliantly drew Scannell's tackle and slipped the ball to Jarrad Butler who raced clear and fed O'Halloran to score.

Both sides were under pressure at lineout time, but Connacht's counter-attacking game was keeping them in it.

Connacht were in the hunt at the break, but their poor lineout play consistently undid them.

After earning a free-kick from their first attempt, they then marched the men in black backwards with their second and Nigel Owens handed Carty the chance to level matters from the tee. He obliged and it was all-square with half an hour remaining. Munster looked to hit back and dominated possession but then lost Conway.

Despite the blow, Hanrahan restored his side's lead with a fine penalty, but he was then at fault as Tom Farrell struck off rare good lineout ball, stepping inside the out-half and leaving him for dead to score.

Craig Ronaldson converted to make it a four-point game.

Munster pushed for a winner, but the home defence held firm.

The Sportsground erupted at full-time, Munster's scalp isn't claimed too often in these parts and this one was hard-earned.

Connacht:T O'Halloran; D Leader, B Aki, T Farrell, C Kelleher (N Adeolokun 53); J Carty (C Ronaldson 63), K Marmion; D Buckley (D Coulson ), T McCartney (D Heffernan), F Bealham (C Carey); U Dillane (Q Roux 68), J Cannon; E McKeon, J Butler, J Muldoon (capt) (E Masterson 75).

Munster: S Zebo; K Earls, C Farrell, R Scannell, A Conway; I Keatley (JJ Hanrahan 47), C Murray (D Williams); D Kilcoyne (L O'Connor 51), R Marshall (K O'Byrne 51), J Ryan (S Archer 47); M Flanagan (S McCarthy 71), B Holland; P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell (T O'Donnell 64), CJ Stander.

Ref: N Owens (Wales).

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