Carbery guides Munster to thrilling win over Connacht

Connacht 24Munster 31

Sean Farrell reports from the Sportsground

THEY CRAMMED INTO the Sportground for this one, the Connacht faithful. 8,129 all told, and a fair few among them queued before the gate opened two hours before kick-off.

Though it ultimately ended in a bonus-point defeat, nobody sounded disappointed when the second half came to the boil. Excellent offloads, incisive line-breaks, huge collisions, contentious decisions, seven tries and Joey Carbery fist-pumps to a hostile crowd. This game was awash with moments to liven up the first weekend in January.

Carbery celebrates his try, Munster’s fourth. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Considering the stacked team-sheet sent up the road from Limerick, a task that already had the look of an uphill ascent to it got a little steeper for Connacht in the hours before kick-off. Rather than celebrate a 150th cap, loosehead Denis Buckley was laid low by illness and so Peter McCabe and young Matthew Burke were thrust into action.

With Chris Farrell, Joey Carbery, Tadhg Beirne Peter O’Mahony and Keith Earls in harness, Munster were never going to be rattled by the crackling Galway atmosphere. Yet despite dominating early exchanges, Johann van Graan’s side found themselves behind within 10 minutes.

Back row Arno Botha ran into contact for what seemed a routine carry beyond halfway until a clever ball-targeting tackle from Tom Farrell ended with the centre haring towards the try-line with ball-in-hand while many were waiting for the ruck to form under Botha.

The 7-0 gap lasted just six minutes for the hosts, however. Munster dusted themselves down after the setback and stuck manfully to the plan until a big Chris Farrell carry made a gainline in front of the posts and from there Keith Earls raided a gap and offloaded for O’Mahony to dive over.


Carbery added the conversion and was soon taking the tee again. The brilliant Paul Boyle and Gavin Thornbury denied John Ryan from bulldozing over the try-line from close range. However, the reprieve was short-lived as Munster clinically executed off the five-metre scrum, Alby Mathewson sending Dan Goggin crashing through beside the sticks.

With a smart defence shutting off angles, a pack gaining an upper hand and a stacked bench ready to rumble on in the second half, the game looked ideally set up for Munster to dominate from there on in. This Connacht side, however, always have few flashes of brilliance up their sleeve to ensure they never bow out without a battle.

When line-breaks came for the Clan Terrace to roar on, they came thanks to either Farrell or the returning Matt Healy. Having slipped debutant Tom Daly through an early gap, late in the half the wing side-stepped Mathewson’s rush defence 10 metres inside his own territory and rapidly ate up 25 metres. There Munster seemed happy to kill the move and accept a penalty before half-time.

Jack Carty was happy to slot it between the posts to narrow the gap to 10-14 at the break. But it was after the turnaround that Connacht really got their claws into the contest.

Munster must have feared they had failed to capitalise on their dominance through the first 40 and Farrell compounded that concern as he broke down the right wing and fed Cian Kelleher a try to give Connacht the lead with the half just two minutes old.

Tom Farrell carries at Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The southern province were undaunted by the prospect of a momentum shift, though.

This match was more than a tale of two Farrells, but Chris was a colossus for Munster and his 48th-minute barrel through a tackle and offload to Alex Wootton paved the way for the match-tilting try.

After Wootton was snagged, Beirne barged close to the try-line and from there Mathewson flung a remarkable long pass with minimal back-lift — but more than a hint of forward – to find Goggin waiting patiently to dot down his second.

Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The crowd whistled and jeered, imploring referee Mike Adamson to consult the TMO before Carbery could connect with his conversion. The Athy man did not err, and showed a rare flash of fire as he pumped a fist at the crowd as he turned back for halfway.

The out-half was soon moved to fullback and he created cause for celebration from that position too, jinking past Healy to touch down a bonus-point score that puts Van Graan’s men top of Pro14 Conference A, ahead of Glasgow after their loss to Benetton.

It was all but over, but the hosts refused to believe the match was beyond them until the final whistle sounded. They pulled back within seven points — a losing bonus point that was the least they deserved –  thanks to a marvellous offload from Colby Fainga’a that sent Carty on a clear run to the try-line.

This is a Munster building from a win over Leinster and six days out from a European battle in Gloucester. This was a Munster team with a vicious defence and ample weaponry in attack. They weren’t in a mood to let victory slip from their grasp.



Tries: T Farrell, C Kelleher, J Carty
Conversions: J Carty 3/3
Penalties: J Carty 1/1


Tries: P O’Mahony, D Goggin (2), J Carbery
Conversions: J Carbery 4/4
Penalties: J Carbery 1/1

Connacht: Darragh Leader, Cian Kelleher (Colm de Buitlear ’73), Tom Farrell, Tom Daly (David Horwitz ’71), Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade (Angus Lloyd ’64); Pete McCabe (Matthew Burke ’58), Dave Heffernan (Tom McCartney ’54), Dominic Robertson McCoy (Finlay Bealham ’40); Gavin Thornbury, Quinn Roux (Ultan Dillane ’57), Paul Boyle, Colby Fainga’a, Eoghan Masterson (Cillian Gallagher ’64)

Munster: Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin (Sam Arnold ’73), Alex Wootton (Tyler Bleyendaal ’59), Joey Carbery, Alby Mathewson (Conor Murray ’50); Jeremy Loughman (Dave Kilcoyne ’60), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’66), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’44), Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (Billy Holland ’64), Tommy O’Donnell, Arno Botha (CJ Stander ’52)

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