Munster edge past Connacht
March 24, 2012
Simon Zebo scored one of Munster's two tries
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Munster came from behind to seal a 20-16 victory over Connacht on Saturday night.
Connacht foraged into a 10-6 half-time lead thanks to a converted try from hooker Ethienne Reynecke. The 7,022 attendance, a record crowd for a league game in Galway, watched Simon Zebo zip though for a levelling try with just over 20 minutes left. Miah Nikora, who finished with 11 points, kicked Connacht back in front only for flanker Tommy O'Donnell's 67th-minute try to seal it for the visitors.
Nikora drifted a drop goal attempt to the left and wide as wind-assisted Connacht enjoyed the better of the early possession. His opposite number Ian Keatley, back at the Sportsground for the first time since his move to Munster, fumbled a high ball and then threw a forward pass during a nervy opening.
The performances of the respective fullbacks, Connacht captain Gavin Duffy and Munster's Felix Jones, stood out. The pair were rock solid under the high ball and always willing to counter from deep. Keatley misjudged his first shot at the posts and five minutes later, Nikora landed his first penalty with a steady wind behind him. Connacht's lead was quickly erased, though. From the restart Henry Fa'afili was called for obstruction and Keatley brought Munster level.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men when their captain Mick O'Driscoll saw yellow for pulling a player back off the ball as Connacht pressed for a try. Connacht wasted little time in making their numerical advantage count, a forceful lineout maul resulting in Reynecke muscling over to the right of the posts. Nikora added the extras but good work from the Munster forwards allowed Keatley claw back three points while O'Driscoll was off the pitch.
Into the second half Connacht settled back down to their task with an early Nikora penalty and strong carries from Ronan Loughney and Ray Ofisa had them back within sight of the whitewash. Zebo did well to hold up Duffy over the line after the Connacht skipper had gathered Nikora's pinpoint cross-field kick. Munster survived a series of five-metre scrums before hitting back on the scoreboard.
Johne Murphy passed long to the left for Denis Hurley who offloaded out of a tackle for the supporting Murphy and he sent the onrushing Zebo in behind the posts for a well-executed try. Keatley converted to square things up at 13-all. The home side dug deep and earned a kickable penalty for Nikora who he duly sent over.
But Munster showed a clinical edge again when the London Irish-bound Tomas O'Leary attacked off a lineout and passed for O'Donnell to shrug off two tacklers and crash over for a try. Keatley's successful conversion opened up a four-point gap and it was enough for Munster to win and jump back above the Ospreys into second in the table.
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