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

Injury-hit Connacht take on Guinness PRO12 leaders Munster

Guinness PRO14 Rugby Editor 31 Dec 2016
Robin Copeland

It’s eighth against first as Connacht host Guinness PRO12 leaders Munster at The Sportsground in an inter-provincial derby.

Connacht will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Ulster on December 23, while Munster will want to consolidate their place at the top of the division ahead of Leinster – who they defeated on Boxing Day – and Ospreys.

What’s at stake?

Munster have Ospreys breathing down their necks at the top of the Guinness PRO12, but a win is far from easy at the Sportsground, although Connacht are not at full strength.

A Munster victory would ensure they are top of the league going into 2017, but they will have to rely on Newport-Gwent Dragons and Ulster, who face Ospreys and Leinster respectively for a favour if they were to be defeated.

Connacht, meanwhile, had won four games on the spin in all competition prior to their loss at Ulster, and have not lost a match at home since early September, a 11-32 reverse against Ospreys.

Team news (Connacht Rugby):

Connacht continue to be ravaged by injuries, with more than half the squad sidelined by injury or sickness, but coach Pat Lam makes four changes from the defeat to Ulster before Christmas.

Peter Robb returns to start in the centre, while Tom McCarthy comes back into the side at hooker, and will skipper the side in the absence of John Muldoon. Naulia Dawai makes his first start for Connacht at No. 8.

Team news (Munster Rugby):

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus makes 11 changes from the side that downed Leinster.

Leading try-scorer Ronan O’Mahony retains his place on the wing, but otherwise it is a different back line for Erasmus.

Francis Saili makes his first start of the season, while prop Billy Holland will captain the side in the absence of Peter O’Mahony.

Talking points: 

Connacht have won three of the last four meetings against Munster and the Men in Red have lost on their last two visits to the Sportsground, but have the second best away record in the division and are up against a side missing 25 players.

The visitors have lost only once in nine Guinness PRO12 matches, a 14-25 loss to Leinster in October.

Lions contenders: Keith Earls

Connacht Rugby: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Rory Parata, Peter Robb, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney (c), Finlay Bealham; Quinn Roux, James Cannon; Nepia Fox-Matamua, Jake Heenan, Naulia Dawai.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, JP Cooney, John Andress, Lewis Stevenson, Danny Qualter, Caolin Blade, Ciaran Gaffney, Rory Moloney.

Top Points Scorer: Jack Carty 59pts. Top Try Scorer: Niyi Adeolokun 4.

Munster Rugby: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Dan Goggin, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams, James Cronin; Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn; Dave Foley, Billy Holland (c), Tommy O’Donnell; Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Dave Kilcoyne, Kevin O’Byrne, Thomas Du Toit, Robin Copeland, Conor Oliver, Te Aihe Toma, Rory Scannell, Jaco Taute.

Top Points Scorer:  Tyler Bleyendal 111pts. Top Try Scorer: Ronan O’Mahony 6.

TV: TG4 (KO 5.30pm)

Match officials – Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU). Assistant Referee 1: Dudley Phillips (IRFU). AR2: Mark Patton (IRFU).TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final

Played 28, Connacht won 4, Munster won 23 with 1 game drawn.

At The Sportsground, 5.30pm. Live on TG4
Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Paul Haycock (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Wayne Sheridan (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

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

Leaders Munster battle past Connacht

Andrew Lawton 31 Dec 2016

Munster consolidated their position at the top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a hard-fought 16-9 victory over Connacht at the Galway Sportsground.

In difficult playing conditions, Ian Keatley and Jack Carty exchanged penalties in the first half before Luke Marshall, at the back of a Munster driving maul, crossed for the game’s only try.

David Kilcoyne’s late yellow card meant Munster finished the game a man down and Carty was able to kick his third penalty of the night to earn a losing bonus point for his side.

Keatley had kicked the first points of the evening, with Duncan Williams holding the ball in place, after just two minutes to take an early 3-0 lead.

Scrum-half Keiran Marmion almost had the first try of the game with nine minutes on the clock as he chased down a kick but after referring the decision to the TMO, no try was awarded.

With 17 minutes gone, Connacht won a penalty ten metres inside the Munster half but fly-half Jack Carty’s effort went wide and Munster retained their three point advantage.

Carty did manage to level the scores on the hour half but the visitors restored their narrow advantage through the boot of Keatley with two minutes left of the first half.

And it was the Munster fly-half who stepped up first after the break to try and extend the lead with a long range penalty effort which fell just short of the posts.

Another penalty, this time at a scrum, then gave Connacht the chance to level the scores once more and Carty duly obliged with a successful kick from inside the Munster 22 with 50 minutes gone.

Marshall crossed for the first try of the match just before the hour as the Munster forwards drove over the line from a five metre lineout.

Keatley added the vital extras despite the slippery conditions under foot to take the score to 13-6 with 20 minutes left to play.

And the fly-half, who was named man of the match, crucially took the visitors’ advantage to ten points on 68 minutes as he took knocked over a drop goal.

Replacement Kilcoyne was sent to the bin for repeated infringements as Munster were forced to conclude the game with just 14 men.

And as Connacht piled on the pressure with the extra man they earned another penalty which Carty successfully kicked to earn his side the losing bonus point.

Guinness PRO12 Final 2017 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 adults and €5 child, and be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie. For further information visit http://www.pro12rugby.com/final

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