Munster cruise past Connacht
May 6, 2011
Winger Doug Howlett dotted down during Munster's comfortable win in Limerick
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Munster extended their unbeaten home record in this season's Magners League to 11 matches with a deserved 22-6 victory over Connacht at Thomond Park on Friday night.
Simon Zebo and Alan Quinlan grabbed first half tries for the Magners League table-toppers and Doug Howlett added the third in the 75th minute. Ian Keatley, who has signed to join Munster, kicked two penalties in his final appearance for a game but limited Connacht side.
Having got over their disappointing European exit, Munster will host last season's champions the Ospreys in next weekend's league semi-finals. Their opening try came out of nothing. Johne Murphy fired a hopeful kick skyward and Gavin Duffy looked certain to claim it, but Zebo was quickly in to rob him and sprint over unopposed in the left corner.
A great catch by Duffy helped set up an immediate opportunity for Keatley to reply. However, the out-half's penalty attempt bounced off the right hand post and away in a blustery wind.
Munster's forwards, with captain Paul O'Connell back at the helm, exerted control in the maul and in the loose. However, Connacht were doughty in defence and kept their discipline in a well-contested first half.
Keatley opened their account in the 30th minute, punishing Quinlan for slowing up Connacht ball, and he kicked the visitors in front six minutes later. But Munster got back on top before the break, launching a penalty to touch before a well-constructed drive ended with Quinlan crashing over to the left of the posts. Ronan O'Gara added the conversion for a 12-6 interval lead.
Tony McGahan's men made a smart start to the second half, O'Gara tucking away a penalty as the home forwards gained ground once again. Keatley miscued a 53rd minute penalty and Connacht full-back Duffy had a try disallowed for an earlier indiscretion by Johnny O'Connor which was spotted by assistant referee John Carvill.
Sean Cronin, who scored a terrific try recently against Ulster, took a brilliant line to almost unlock Munster out wide on the right. But the westerners could not break down Munster's well-organised defence.
A late surge from the home side yielded a try for Howlett, who did well to dive on a kick through from Paul Warwick before it bounced over the end line. O'Gara knocked over the conversion for good measure and not even a last minute yellow card for O'Connell, who went offside at a ruck, could spoil a satisfying night for Munster.
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