Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

Match Page 2017-18 - Current Standing WP: 134

Match Page 2017-18 - H2H WP: 136

Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

Match Page 2017-18 - Season so Far WP:141

Preview: Connacht v Munster

Charlie Talbot-Smith 26 Oct 2017

After the European break, the Guinness PRO14 returns on Friday night as Munster head to Galway to take on Connacht in their second inter-pro of the season.

The all-Conference A clash at the Sportsground is a good chance for both sides to build momentum after strong European fortnights.

What’s at stake? Munster Rugby are unbeaten after the first two rounds of European Champions Cup play, however in the Guinness PRO14 they have lost two of their last three encounters.

They still sit second in Conference A but will be put to the test by a Connacht side who won back-to-back games in the Challenge Cup over the last two weeks.

However domestically, the 2016 champions are struggling with only one win to their name this season and currently sitting sixth out of seven in the Conference.

Team news (Connacht): John Muldoon returns to captain the side with Kieran Marmion, Ultan Dillane, Finlay Bealham, Tom McCartney, Tom Farrell, Jarrad Butler and Cian Kelleher also coming into the starting team.

Tiernan O’Halloran starts at full-back with Darragh Leader and Kelleher on the two flanks. Farrell joins Bundee Aki in the centre as Marmion and Jack Carty form the half-back partnership.

Bealham, McCartney and Denis Buckley make up the front row with Dillane and James Cannon in the second row. Muldoon’s return sees him wear the No.8 jersey with Eoin McKeon in at blindside and Butler at openside.

Niyi Adeolokun is named in the matchday 23 for the first time this season as he returns from injury.

Team news (Munster): Rassie Erasmus makes three changes to the Munster side that downed Racing 92 in Europe last time out.

In the front five John Ryan and Mark Flanagan are promoted from the bench this week, with Ryan joining Dave Kilcoyne and Rhys Marshall in the front row as Flanagan links up with his second row partner Billy Holland once again.

The only change to the backline is a straight swap as Andrew Conway takes the place of Darren Sweetnam to start on the wing, joining Keith Earls and Simon Zebo in the back three.

Talking points: The news that Simon Zebo will leave Munster at the end of the season broke this week.

The Ireland winger looks set to head for France next season but is keen to leave the club on a high.

“As much as I will miss everything about this place – the players, staff, supporters and friends for life – I know there are many more special nights in Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park to be had,” he said.

“I will continue to enjoy wearing my jersey with pride and will give my all in making sure Munster are successful this season.”

Elsewhere, the transition from Rassie Erasmus to Johann van Graan as director of rugby continues while in Galway Kieran Keane is hoping his side can pass their acid test against their rivals.

“The players all want to play in them and I’m as excited as much by the occasion as they are,” he said.

“I think it is a great thing that six of the 21 games in the PRO14 are derby games because anyone who is hoping to get a green shirt, this is the forum to shine in.”

Key Battle:  Rory Scannell v Bundee Aki

Bundee Aki has finally qualified for Ireland on residency grounds and has been tipped by many to feature for his country this autumn.

The Connacht centre will line up in the No.13 shirt this weekend in Galway but can shift across to inside centre.

One of his rivals for the Ireland centre berth appears likely to be Munster’s Rory Scannell who has caught the eye again at the outset of the new campaign.

The two will go head to head under the Friday night lights, so expect sparks to fly.

Key Stat: Connacht have lost their last six encounters with their fellow Irish provinces since beating Ulster in Galway last October.

Did you know? Munster achieved the season’s double over Connacht last year reversing the trend of the 2015/16 campaign – the last six meetings between the two provinces have been evenly split with three wins apiece.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Darragh Leader, Bundee Aki, Tom Farrell, Cian Kelleher, Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, James Cannon; Eoin McKeon, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon (Capt)

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Denis Coulson, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, Eoghan Masterson, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Niyi Adeolokun

Munster: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan; Mark Flanagan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony Capt., Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Stephen Archer, Sean McCarthy, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Darren Sweetnam

TV: TG4, (KO 7:35pm)

Match officials – Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU), AR1: David Wilkinson (IRFU), AR2: Frank Murphy (IRFU) TMO: Brian MacNeice (IRFU)

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Farrell leaves it late as Connacht down 14-man Munster

Charlie Talbot-Smith 27 Oct 2017

Tom Farrell’s fine solo score after Andrew Conway’s red card breathed new life into Connacht’s Guinness PRO14 campaign with a dramatic 20-16 victory over Munster.

The visitors led at the Sportsground at the break, thanks to Simon Zebo’s early score and the boot of Ian Keatley.

Tiernan O’Halloran went over for the hosts – who were their own worst enemies at times in the opening stages with their attacking but error-strewn style – but they trailed 13-10 at the interval.

Jack Carty kicked the scores level soon after the restart but the game swung just after the hour-mark when Conway saw red after his elbow caught Carty in the head in attempting to charge down the fly-half’s kick.

JJ Hanrahan then put the 14 men of Munster back in front but the stage was set for Farrell who cut a fine line off Kieran Marmion from a lineout before streaking clear to the line for the pivotal score.

Munster kept pushing hard at the death but have now slipped to three defeats in their last four league games.

Meanwhile Kieran Keane’s Connacht side claimed only their second win of the domestic season – and first over a fellow Irish province since October of last year.

After an unbeaten start to their European Champions Cup campaign, Munster were keen to get back to winning ways on the domestic front.

And they were helped on their way by the hosts in the early stages, multiple handling errors from Connacht in their own 22 handing Munster possession and territory.

And after four minutes the visitors struck, Connacht doing well to disrupt a five-metre scrum before coughing the ball back up to Rory Scannell and the centre’s searing carry and offload released Zebo to power over to cap an emotional week for the Ireland international.

Ian Keatley added the extras from bang in front and, despite some customary flourishes from the hosts, a penalty from the Munster fly-half then opened a 10-0 lead.

Connacht needed a response but Carty pushed a penalty wide when CJ Stander went high on Ultan Dillane.

However, they were undeterred and got a foothold when Bundee Aki – called up by Ireland this week – produced a moment of magic with a no-look pop pass on the gainline that released man of the match Jarrad Butler and the flanker had the simple task of putting O’Halloran over for a fine score.

Carty added the conversion but just after the half-hour mark a second Keatley penalty stretched the lead back out to six at 13-7.

Still Connacht continued to chance their arm, despite their high error count, one John Muldoon offload defying belief before Aki again delayed a pass to release O’Halloran down the left.

And when Munster were forced to concede a five-metre scrum, the hosts won a penalty that Carty slotted to make it 13-10 at the interval.

Hanrahan was introduced at the break for Munster and while Carty levelled the scores, the visitors appeared closest to a second try when Conway and Keith Earls both narrowly failed to get on the end of Hanrahan kicks.

Niyi Adeolokun was also on for his first game of the season, but the decisive moment came just after the hour.

Carty dinked over the top of the onrushing defence and before he could chase his own kick, Conway’s elbow connected with his head leaving Nigel Owens little choice but to red card the apologetic winger.

Munster re-took the lead, despite their numerical disadvantage, soon after when Hanrahan slotted a penalty but in the end it was Farrell who lifted the Sportsground off its feet in the closing stages.

Quick ball off the top of a lineout saw Marmion hit Farrell in stride, the centre cutting a perfect line back against the over-chasing Munster defence – and having shrugged off Hanrahan and Dave Kilcoyne the youngster showed great speed to streak clear for the score.

Craig Ronaldson, on for Carty, slotted the extras to and Connacht were in front for the first time in the match at 20-16 with time running out.

Munster summoned up one last effort until a knock-on ended their hopes and Muldoon and co could celebrate a famous win.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138