Munster proved too strong for near neighbours Connacht. Last year in the corresponding fixture Connacht sped back up the M17 with their first Thomond Park victory in 29 years before going on to win the Guinness Pro12.
Guinness PRO12 Round 22
Munster 50 Connacht 14
Considered by some a dead rubber, nevertheless a win would leave Munster on top of the Pro12 table and that’s exactly what they set out to achieve. Not too many would have foreseen a seven-try onslaught as Munster tore apart their opponents on the final day of Pat Lam’s tenure in charge of Connacht.
A strong attendance of 18,567, including a sizeable Connacht contingent, settled in as former Connacht player Ian Keatley celebrated his 150th appearance in a Munster jersey with a man-of-the-match performance. Keatley was instrumental in the first score, passing to Dan Goggin who set up Keith Earls’ try which Keatley converted to put the home side 7-0 ahead.
Keatley made it 10-0 after Connacht were penalised at the breakdown by referee David Wilkinson. Jack O’Donoghue crossed the whitewash for a second try after half an hour. Keatley added the extras making it 17-0. For their third try, Alex Wootton danced through the defence before Keatley offloaded to Andrew Conway for a great score in the corner. Again Keatley was on cue to make it 24-0.
Two minutes into the second half James Cronin finished with a solid close range score to win the bonus point. Keatley did the necessary and Munster were 31-0 in front. Eventually Connacht got on the scoreboard after Jack Carty’s cross-field kick was finished in the corner by Cian Kelleher. Craig Ronaldson added the conversion.
Within one minute Andrew Conway scored his second and Munster’s fourth try after taking a smart pass from Jaco Taute. He dotted the ball down between the posts, giving Keatley a fairly simple task to make it 38-7. Midway through the half Connacht substitute Naulia Dawai had his side’s second try which Ronaldson converted to make it 38-14.
By this stage Rassie Erasmus introduced his very strong bench that included five internationals. Among them Conor Murray who was making a welcome return after suffering a shoulder injury during the Six Nations game against Wales back in March. Another replacement was Francis Saili who picked up a loose ball before scoring Munster’s sixth try and again Keatley was accurate. Conor Oliver rounded off the scoring with a minute remaining.
Munster now look forward to their semi-final contest against Ospreys in Thomond Park on Saturday May 20th with a 6.15pm kick-off.