Munster put Connacht to the sword to top Pro12 table
Rassie Erasmus’ side will now face Ospreys at home in the semi-finals in two week’s time
Munster 50 Connacht 14
It was a successful comeback for Conor Murray as Munster made short work of Connacht with a seven-try triumph at Thomond Park. The win saw Munster finish top of the Pro12 and earned them a home semi-final against Ospreys in a fortnight’s time.
This was another desperately poor display from Pat Lam’s side who were 31-0 behind early in the second-half before Cian Kelleher and Naulia Dawai scored consolations.
Munster were well on top and punished their visitors’ poor defending as the impressive Andrew Conway scored two tries in an excellent individual performance.
After last week’s collapse against Scarlets, Connacht badly needed a lift ahead of their Champions Cup play-off, but unfortunately for the sizeable travelling support, it was more of the same porous defending and sloppy attacking play from Lam’s side.
To their credit Connacht started brightly with Tom Farrell and Danie Poolman to the fore in attack, but they struggled to break through Munster’s excellent defensive line and hungry breakdown play.
But Munster soon tamed the Connacht start and scored a try off a first-phase scrum move when Dan Goggin strolled through a huge hole in middle of Connacht’s defensive line and Keith Earls eventually scored under the posts.
In his 150th Munster appearance Ian Keatley added the first of his three first-half conversions. Connacht should have hit back five minutes later but Poolman failed to hold Jack Carty’s accurate crossfield kick.
A forward pass then saved Connacht’s blushes at the other end as Earls was denied a second try, but after Keatley kicked a penalty for a 10-0 lead the brilliant Jack O’Donoghue barged over after Conway and Earls made linebreaks for the home side.
As the half wore on and the score accumulated the confidence drained from Connacht and, after they narrowly kept Conor Oliver at bay following his break down the left, Conway scored in the corner with a stunning one-handed touchdown after he linked brilliantly with Keatley and Alex Wootton.
Munster’s 24-0 half-time advantage was the least they deserved, and it only took them three second half minutes to add to their tally when James Cronin stretched to score.
A Carty crossfield kick was converted by Kelleher 11 minutes into the half, but Connacht failed to claim the restart and Conway scored Munster’s fifth try for a 38-7 lead.
Replacement Naulia Dawai scored off a driving maul which will annoy Munster, but Francis Saili and Conor Oliver wrapped up the heavy win for the home side.
Scorers – Munster: K Earls, J O’Donoghue, A Conway (2), J Cronin, F Saili, C Oliver tries; I Keatley 6 cons, pen. Connacht: C Kelleher, N Dawai tries; C Ronaldson 2 cons.
MUNSTER: A Conway; A Wootton, J Taute, D Goggin, K Earls; I Keatley, A Lloyd; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer; D O’Shea, B Holland (c); J Deysel, C Oliver, J O’Donoghue.
Replacements: T Bleyendaal for Wootton (47), C Murray for Lloyd (53), N Scannell for Marshall (59), D Kilcoyne for Cronin (59), J Ryan for Archer (59), P O’Mahony for O’Shea (59), F Saili for Taute (59), T O’Donnell for Deysel (65), J Taute for Goggin (70 HIA).
CONNACHT: T O’Halloran; D Poolman, T Farrell, C Ronaldson, C Kelleher; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, C Carey; Q Roux, A Browne; E McKeon, J Connolly, J Muldoon (c).
Replacements: F Bealham for Carey (44), S O’Brien for Roux (52), N Dawai for Connolly (52), JP Cooney for Buckley (59), J Cooney for Marmion (60), D Heffernan for Delahunt (63), M Boshoff for Carty (66), D Buckley for Bealham (66-70 HIA), D Leader for O’Halloran (69), J Carty for Boshoff (70 HIA).
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU).