Connacht’s classy centre partnership

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

A raw and emotional night out west as Connacht were inspired by a smashing performance from Robbie Henshaw. The stylish manner in which Henshaw combined with Bundee Aki augurs well for Pat Lam’s team.

There was so much to admire in how Henshaw carried out his duties. Solid defensively, but also capable going forward, Henshaw’s flash of class for Kieran Marmion’s first try lit up the Sportsground. Craig Ronaldson’s chip was both tasty and thoughtful, but only a footballer of Henshaw’s ability could have gathered it with such assurance. The offload for Marmion was similarly tidy. Aki was a willing accomplice for Henshaw throughout too, his role shouldn’t be underestimated.

 Munster’s record against Connacht

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

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The statistics were as scary as they were staggering. With only one win from the previous 41 tussles involving the teams, Connacht might have been burdened by historical issues. Pat Lam highlighted Connacht’s difficulties in this particular fixture during his pre-match bulletin so they craved to post a rare success over the visitors.

At the interval Anthony Foley’s charges must have felt they were ready, willing, and able for the peculiar conditions and challenges at the Sportsground. Then, Connacht exploded in the second half. Remarkably this was only Connacht’s second victory over Munster since 1986.

Tone and tempo set at start of either half


Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was a classic case of role reversal as both teams had pockets of supremacy. Ultimately, Connacht did more damage when they were in the red zone.

Munster wanted to set the tone and tempo of this game. That is precisely what they did initially as Connacht wobbled. Inside 16 minutes Munster’s advantage stood at 13 points, which was a decent buffer considering the wretched conditions. Connacht, so often the barking underdogs, were quitened for a spell.

Ian Keatley’s immaculate eighth minute penalty gave Munster heart and they quickly followed that score with a try which was all about their forward power and poise. Duncan Casey’s dart was gathered by talisman Paul O’Connell enabling captain Peter O’Mahony to burrow over for a try. Keatley’s conversion was sweet. So was his next penalty and Connacht were encountering early distress. After the restart the roles were exchanged, then it was Connacht who were calling the tune. Craig Ronaldson’s try immediately after the restart gave Connacht renewed hope; that was all they needed.

 Wild and wet west

An hour and a half before kick-off as rain spilled from a darkening sky the Munster players climbed off the team bus. A ripple of applause greeted them from those waiting for the turnstiles to be opened. Still the visiting group of players appeared completely aware of what awaited them.

This was likely to be gruelling battle, Connacht had opted for a physical starting XV. Afterwards Pat Lam admitted that his team selection hinged on the fact that the match would be played in the driving wind and rain. The collisions were going to be meaty. They were and Connacht relished this scrap. The scalp Connacht wanted was taken.

First Connacht try


A tough slog in the first half hour for Connacht, who burst beautifully to life in the 30th minute, scoring a dashing try. Craig Ronaldson’s left footed flick was gathered by Robbie Henshaw in full flight.

The Irish centre had the wit and vision to slip the supporting Kieran Marmion away for a try under the posts. Fittingly Ronaldson’s conversion was high and handsome. Suddenly Connacht were motoring, and it most certainly was a case of game back on!

Henshaw on fire as Connacht overpower MunsterHenshaw and Marmion combined for this glorious Connacht try against Munster