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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

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

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

Preview: Munster v Connacht

Charlie Peat 5 Jan 2018

Munster will host Connacht at Thomond Park on Saturday at 7.45pm in another weekend of Guinness PRO14 interpro derbies.

Both sides suffered narrow defeats in Round 12 and will be looking to set the record straight this time around.

What’s at stake?

Munster currently trail Conference A leaders Glasgow by 15 points and will look to this weekend as an opportunity to close the gap.

Connacht will be disappointed at their fifth place position at this stage and will hope to leapfrog Cardiff Blues with whom they’re level on points.

Both sides have been beaten by Leinster in recent weeks by small margins and will be looking to get their 2018 off to a positive start.

Team news (Munster):

Head coach Johann Van Graan has emptied his international reserve for their home clash this weekend, with CJ Stander captaining the side.

It is an all international back three made up of Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway and Keith Earls, whilst Ian Keatley and Conor Murray are back in the side at half backs.

Irish Internationals Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan start as props with Jean Kleyn moving into second row in place of the injured Billy Holland.

Team news (Connacht):

Connacht head coach Kieran Keane has taken a different approach with the Six Nations looming and chosen to rest many of his stars.

Ultan Dillane, Bundee Aki and Kieran Marmion all miss out in a bid to manage their game time, leaving room for Peter McCabe, Caolin Blade and Eoin Griffin to make a start.

Talking Points:

Keane said: “We have come through a series of big games and some guys have seen a lot of game time. Our internationals in particular are due a break especially with the Six Nations just around the corner.

“The squad is in a really good place at the moment. Obviously, we felt we could and should have won against Leinster and we came very close. We did the review during the week, we identified where we came up short and now we move on.

“The performance and effort levels from the boys over the past few weeks has been top quality and particularly in the interpro series we have seen some real character.”

Van Graan added: “It’s not good enough for Munster to lose four games against other Irish provinces.

“That being said, two weeks ago, it all looked pretty rosy for Irish rugby with all four teams winning home and away in Europe.

“The positive is that it is all against quality opposition. You just have to look at Connacht and the type of rugby that they are playing.

“We didn’t play good rugby up there but we are actually playing some very good rugby now. The challenge is to put it together for 80 minutes.

“But yes, we do need a reaction on Saturday evening and we do need to get a positive result.”

Key Battle: Connor Murray v Caolin Blade

The scrum half battle epitomises the game. Conor Murray will look to outclass and out-muscle his young compatriot with high box kicks, which will test the Connacht defence.

If Connacht are to have a chance in this game it is important they get clean ball from the base and this will be down to Blade, who makes his 10th appearance of the season.

Key stat: Munster have won 25 of the 31 matches played between the two sides in the PRO14.

Did you know? Munster Rugby have lost their last two matches, both in the Guinness PRO14, at home to Leinster and away to Ulster. They have not lost three in a row in the Championship since December 2015.

Munster:  Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls, Ian Keatley, Conor Murray, Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, Darren O’Shea, Jack O’Donoghue, Conor Oliver, CJ Stander
Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Robin Copeland, Peter O’Mahony, Duncan Williams, Bill Johnston, Darren Sweetnam.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran, Niyi Adeolokun, Eoin Griffin, Pita Ahki, Matt Healy, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade, Peter McCabe, Tom McCartney, Conor Carey, Quinn Roux, James Cannon, Cillian Gallagher, Jarrad Butler, John Muldoon
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Conan O’Donnell, Finlay Bealham, Gavin Thornbury, Paul Boyle, James Mitchell, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

Match officials – Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU), AR1: Sean Gallagher (IRFU), AR2: Nigel Correll (IRFU) TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU)

TV: TG4 (KO 7.45pm local)

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 can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Munster get back to winning ways with big win over Connacht

Rich Dore 6 Jan 2018

Conor Murray’s second-half double helped Munster get back to winning ways with a five-try win over Connacht at Thomond Park.

The first half was an even affair, with two penalties from Connacht’s Jack Carty being outdone by a try for Darren O’Shea and five points from the boot of Ian Keatley.

But the second period was all Munsters, as Andrew Conway, Keith Earls and Murray all crossed in a ruthless 16-minute spell.

Tom McCartney touched down late for the visitors but it was a mere consolation as Munster banished memories of defeats to Leinster and Ulster with a domineering performance.

It took Connacht just three minutes to open the scoring in Limerick, with fly-half Carty making no mistake with the boot.

Munster immediately fought back and almost had their first score but a run of multiple phases ended with a penalty against them just five metres out from the opposition line.

But the Red Army ended the first quarter powerfully, with a period of sustained pressure being highlighted first by Chris Farrell’s midfield break and then O’Shea’s unstoppable finish – Keatley adding the extras.

Connacht responded with another penalty for Carty, but Munster responded just after the half-hour with a similar effort from Keatley.

With the score at 10-6 at half-time, both sides poked and prodded after the break but were frustrated by several penalties either side of the halfway line.

On 51 minutes Keatley edged his side seven points ahead with a simple shot in front of goal, with Earls making a searing break from the restart that threatened another score.

The important second try came on 54 minutes with Keatley sliding the ball into the corner for Conway to get his fingertips to it in the nick of time.

With the score at 20-6 Munster looked to kill the game off and an excellent first-phase move delivered just that, with Conway pouring through the centre of the pitch and floating a pass out wide for Earls to touch down.

Things looked ominous for Connacht and they became even more so when Quinn Roux saw yellow for a tip-tackle on Earls, with Murray darting over from the next play.

Six minutes later and Murray repeated the trick, Connacht’s furious defence did well to repel a host of forward drives on their tryline, but couldn’t stop the scrum-half as he pounced over to seal his double – leaving McCartney’s late try unable to affect the result.

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 can 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