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Munster storm back to the top of the table

jmcconnell 20 Dec 2005

Captain and talisman Paul O’Connell was back from injury and he inspired the bonus point victory that sees the men in red end the Edinburgh Gunners brief stay at the top.

Connacht meanwhile are well adrift at the foot of the table after their ninth successive defeat.

Munster deservedly hit the front after nine minutes when flanker Denis Leamy bulldozed over in the right corner after good interlinking play between former New Zealand Schools fly-half Jeremy Manning, Leamy and South African winger Anthon Pitout.

Manning chipped his conversion attempt against the post but the 20-year-old drilled over lengthy penalties on 14, 25 and 37 minutes to display his burgeoning confidence and send Munster into the interval with a 14-7 lead.

It could have been more but Connacht, for whom prop Dan McFarland was making his 100th appearance, deserved to be in touch.

Warwick converted Joe Merrigan’s first try for his province on 21 minutes when he looped around from his own lineout throw and plunged over from a close-in ruck.

Manning missed an injury-time penalty shot at 14-7 up, and Munster were made to pay the price when Australian Warwick, showing all his Sevens experience, dummied past Barry Murphy to go over near the posts.

The conversion squared up an electric encounter but Munster, who unloaded a replacements bench boasting 221 international caps, had too much in the tank.

O’Connell showed no ill-effects of the hand injury which had seen him sidelined since September when he stole a 53rd-minute lineout to plunge over from five metres out.

Munster made certain of the win when Manning slotted his fourth penalty and Gary Connolly sent out a long pass for the unmarked Anthony Horgan to touch down in the 73rd minute.

Italian prop Federico Pucciariello, fed by replacement Anthony Foley, scored in the right corner in injury-time to chalk up a valuable bonus point for Kidney’s side.

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