URC CHAMPIONS MUNSTER did enough to carve out victory in a useful pre-season friendly for both sides in a decent contest at the Sportsground.
New Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins and his Munster counterpart Graham Rowntree used the occasion to work various permutations as the clock slowly ticks down to the start of the competitive season.
Munster led 10-7 at the end of an opening half where both sides were guilty of basic handling errors and the constant knock-ons led to a stop-start encounter despite both sides showing a good willingness to go wide.
With five weeks still to go to the start of the URC, both will be grateful for the workout as their massive pre-season campaign rumbles on during the World Cup.
Connacht winger Diarmuid Kilgallen broke the deadlock after 12 minutes when he was at the end of a good movement, with his captain Jack Carty adding the conversion from the right wing.
Joey Carbery, hoping this season for a big upturn in his fortunes after slipping down the pecking order with both Munster and Ireland, reduced the mark with a penalty in front of the posts after 17 minutes after Connacht full-back John Porch was binned for killing the ball.
A penalty to the right corner on the half hour mark ended with a try from Gavin Coombes after Munster eventually mauled their way through a good home defence. Carbery added the points to lead 10-7 at the interval.
Connacht made 10 changes at the break and one of them, Paul Boyle, finished off a good drive after 42 minutes, with former Munster player JJ Hanrahan converting, but then Boyle was binned six minutes as Munster piled on the pressure.
They eventually made the extra man count when they went wide and Ethan Coughlan and Carbery combined to send hooker Diarmuid Barron over for a converted try to lead 17-14 after 54 minutes.
Rory Scannell pushed the advantage out to 24-14 as Carbery again converted before Connacht responded and good work down the right by Shayne Bolton ended with another replacement Cathal Forde scoring to cut the gap to 24-19 with 17 minutes remaining.
Connacht had a few chances late in the game but butchered two lineouts after going to the corner with penalties and were then guilty of crossing from another as Munster held on for the win at the end of a useful workout for both sides.
Tries: Kilgallen, Boyle, Forde.
Conversions: Carty, Hanrahan.
Tries: G Coombes, Barron, R Scannell.
Conversions: Carbery (3).
Connacht: John Porch (Liam McNamara ’56); Diarmuid Kilgallen (Shayne Bolton ’41), Tom Farrell (Byron Ralston ’41), Tom Daly (Cathal Forde ’41) Andrew Smith (Porch ’75); Jack Carty (JJ Hanrahan ’41), Caolin Blade (Colm Reilly ’41); Denis Buckley (Peter Dooley ’41), Dave Heffernan (Dylan Tierney-Martin ’41), Jack Aungier (Dominic Roberston-McCoy ’41); Niall Murray (Oisin Dowling ’41), Joe Joyce; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver (Paul Boyle ’41) (Darragh Murray ’56), Jarrad Butler.
Munster: Simon Zebo (Stephen Kiely ’58); Shay McCarthy (John Costello ’75), Antoine Frisch, Rory Scannell, Calvin Nash; Joey Carbery, Ethan Coughlan (Neil Cronin ’60); Josh Wycherley (Kieran Ryan ’63), Diarmuid Barron (Niall Scannell ’60), John Ryan (Keynan Knox ’60); Gaiv Coombes, Fineen Wycherley (Tom Ahern ’67); Jack O’Donoghue, John Hodnett (Jack Daly ’41), Alex Kendellen.
Referee: Andrew Cole (Leinster).
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