Munster 39-13 Connacht: Home side run in five tries in PRO14 win
Last Updated: 06/01/18 10:46pm
Munster got back to winning ways with a five-try PRO14 victory over Connacht at Thomond Park.
Darren O'Shea's 19th-minute try had the hosts, who had lost their two previous inter-provincial clashes, 10-6 ahead at half-time with Jack Carty kicking two penalties for Connacht.
The much-changed visitors were in contention until Andrew Conway's opportunist 54th-minute try - following on from an Ian Keatley penalty - widened the margin to 14 points.
Connacht lock Quinn Roux's tackle on Keith Earls, the scorer of Munster's third try, saw him receive a yellow card, and a trademark close-range brace from Murray hammered home his team's advantage before Tom McCartney replied late on for the visitors.
Buoyed by winning six league points from their other two festive inter-provincial fixtures, Connacht were the better side in the opening minutes in Limerick.
Carty swung over a penalty from the right wing, following Niyi Adeolokun's initial break, but Munster gradually improved and went ahead midway through the first half.
Simon Zebo's clever kick through set up a lineout opportunity, and following a high-tempo set of phases which saw the returning Chris Farrell go close, second row O'Shea hurtled onto Conor Oliver's short pass to cross to the left of the posts.
Ian Keatley converted before Carty closed the gap after Farrell was penalised for not releasing and the fly-half made it 10-6 on the half-hour mark.
Kieran Keane's men were unable to profit from a strong start to the second period, and Keatley split the posts with another successful penalty.
Munster's next try was a result of Conway reaching Keatley's well-weighted grubber through ahead of Tiernan O'Halloran.
Minus their Ireland internationals and some other front liners, Connacht's challenge seemed to run out of steam as Munster impressively marched to their bonus point.
Now bubbling with attacking intent, Earls was released for the left corner after some neat midfield interplay between Keatley and Conway, before Roux's dangerous challenge on the try scorer, three minutes later, left Connacht down to 14 men.
With James Cronin adding a physical edge off the bench, the Munster pack continued to get over the gain-line and the ever-alert Murray stretched out for the whitewash twice after 63 and 69 minutes, with Keatley completing his 14-point haul from the tee.
Busy scrum half James Mitchell was the pick of Connacht's replacements, helping to reignite their play once they were back to their full complement.
He dribbled through and was tackled five metres out before Cillian Gallagher's one-handed pass put hooker McCartney over for a consolation try, converted by Craig Ronaldson.