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Marmion Brace Helps Connacht To Thomond Victory

Marmion Brace Helps Connacht To Thomond Victory

Connacht put in a comprehensive display at Thomond Park tonight to come away 28-12 winners over Munster in their third and final pre-season game before the GUINNESS PRO12 kicks off next month.

PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Friday, August 21

MUNSTER 12 CONNACHT 28, Thomond Park

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Scorers: Munster: Tries: Mike Sherry, CJ Stander; Con: Ian Keatley
Connacht: Tries: Kieran Marmion 2, Nepia Fox-Matamua, Penalty try; Cons: Jack Carty 3, Craig Ronaldson

Ireland scrum half Kieran Marmion crossed for a brace of tries in the opening half, both coming off the back of a solid rolling maul from the Connacht pack. Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby was in attendance to keep tabs on the international contingent.

Things began positively for the black-clad Munster men, most notably when fit-again hooker Mike Sherry – making his first appearance since November 2013 – scored in the opening three minutes off the back of a textbook maul drive.

Any notions that the Munster maul would become the dominant force in this pre-season encounter were soon quelled when Marmion twice capitalised on Connacht’s own highly effective maul.

Unphased by Munster’s early strike, Connacht soon applied pressure, winning the breakdown battle and making yards with each collision. When Munster eventually infringed, going in off their feet, in keeping with the nature of pre-season, Jack Carty opted to kick down the line instead of slotting an easy three-pointer.

It proved to be a wise decision as Connacht unleashed the first of their try-scoring mauls, one of four for which Munster had no answer in this game. Marmion peeled away from the back to score in the right corner and a touchline conversion from Carty made it a full seven-point return on 15 minutes.

Pat Lam’s charges were now in the ascendancy and ten minutes later, space out wide and a good line from Ultan Dillane brought Connacht back into the Munster 22. A potential try-saving tackle from Munster Academy full-back David Johnston halted the Connacht lock’s advance but sustained pressure again saw Munster infringe. Unsurprisingly, the westerners opted for a kick to touch and the ever-alter Marmion was on hand to secure his second try off the subsequent lineout maul.

Another impressive touchline conversion from Carty saw his side push their advantage out to 14-5 before Munster found the clinical edge that had been alluding them since the opening five minutes of the game.

Testament to the Connacht defence were the countless phases that Munster had to go through from left to right and back again in wearing down their opposition before stand-in captain CJ Stander broke through from close range to touch down by the posts.

Ian Keatley added the extras and brought Munster back to within two points on 35 minutes, a score they would gladly have taken heading for the dressing rooms, but Connacht had other ideas.

From a five metre lineout, Connacht’s maul continued to serve them well, this time new flanker Nepia Fox-Matamua putting the icing on the pack’s Trojan work in touching down for Connacht’s third try. Carty made it three from three in the kicking stakes, leaving Munster 21-12 behind at the interval.

Experimenting with a number of different combinations, Munster boss Anthony Foley made full use of his extended bench across the second half, featuring talent from the senior, Academy and Sub Academy ranks. Recent Ireland Under-20 international Stephen Fitzgerald made his first senior appearance of the current pre-season campaign, while from the senior squad, new signings Francis Saili and the lively Shane Monahan, who started, made their debuts for the province.

However, the same problems persisted for Munster in the second half – failing to get parity at the breakdown, a lack of penetration and handling errors, and another Connacht try all adding to Munster’s frustrations.

Proving just as potent in the second half, Connacht’s maul, and Muster’s illegal attempts to stop it, saw referee David Wilkinson award the men in green a penalty try on 49 minutes, gifting Craig Ronaldson the easiest of conversions in front of the posts.

That would be the final score of the game. Even with Connacht down to 14 men due to centre Bundee Aki’s no-arms tackle, things just never clicked for Foley’s side with the westerners running out deserved 28-12 winners.

MUNSTER: David Johnston; Shane Monahan, Cian Bohane, Matt D’Arcy, Gerhard van den Heever; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Sean McCarthy, Dave Foley, Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (capt).

Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, John Ryan, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Shane Buckley, Cathal Sheridan, Bill Johnston, Francis Saili, Niall Scannell, John Madigan, Jordan Coghlan, Stephen Fitzgerald.

CONNACHT: Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; JP Cooney, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne, John Muldoon (capt), Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson.

Replacements: Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Ben Marshall, Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu, John Cooney, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman, Dave McSharry.

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)