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Side Named For Connacht

April 15, 2016 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Head Coach Anthony Foley makes just three changes for his side to face Connacht in Round 20 of the Guinness PRO12 tomorrow night with Simon Zebo set to make his 100th appearance for Munster.

The first of two changes to the pack comes in the front row with hooker Mike Sherry returning to start alongside James Cronin and Stephen Archer while Donnacha Ryan and Billy Holland continue their partnership in the second row.
 
With Jack O’Donoghue coming into the back row at number 8 for tomorrow’s clash, captain CJ Stander makes the positional switch to 6 with Tommy O’Donnell remaining at 7.
 
The final change sees Darren Sweetnam start on the right wing, joining Keith Earls and Munster centurion Simon Zebo in the back-three.
 
Conor Murray and Johnny Holland continue at half-back as do Rory Scannell and Francis Saili in midfield.
 
Dave O’Callaghan (knee bruising) failed to come through full training this week, ruling him out of contention with Dave Foley (ankle) and academy second row Sean McCarthy (knee) ruled out earlier this week.
 
Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Johnny Holland, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer; Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; CJ Stander – capt., Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.
 
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Robin Copeland, Jordan Coghlan, Tomás O’Leary, Ian Keatley, Andrew Conway.
 
Munster v Connacht, Guinness PRO12 Round 20, Saturday April 16th at the Sportsground, Galway – KO 7.15pm.
 
This game will be televised live on TG4 and Sky Sports
 
For updates on Twitter follow @munsterrugby #ConVMun
 
After training in Irish Independent Park yesterday, Simon Zebo spoke about reaching 100 caps for his native province.

 

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Munster Come Undone In Connacht

April 16, 2016 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Munster tonight suffered a 35-14 defeat away to Connacht at the Sportsground in Round 20 of the Guinness PRO12. Despite a good share of possession and opening half tries from Simon Zebo and Mike Sherry, Connacht proved more disciplined and clinical in attack, scoring four tries in securing a bonus point win.

A pulsating end to end encounter in the opening half saw Munster cross for the game’s opening two tries by the 24th minute – through Zebo and Sherry – with the boot of Shane O’Leary keeping Pat Lam’s men in touch with two penalties before they really kicked into gear, applying relentless pressure on Munster that eventually saw Niyi Adeolokun touch down through the backs, with the forwards then forcing a penalty try just on the interval.
 
Worse was to come for the visitors early in the second half when Adeolokun bagged his second after a Robbie Henshaw kick inside the Munster 22 had the men in red at sixes and sevens, and Finlay Bealham left Munster with too much to do when he secured Connacht’s bonus point try on 65 minutes. 
 
Try as Munster might, a rising penalty count, coupled with an unyielding Connacht defence, continually worked against them and Munster failed to register a score in the second half.
 
It was Munster who held the early possession, patiently going through the phases, making headway as they went with Johnny Holland orchestrating proceedings well and combining with Simon Zebo for the game’s first significant line break.
 
Ultimately the home defence kept Munster at bay in the opening stages and it was Connacht’s first cohesive attack that produced the game’s first points when Munster were penalised for hands in the ruck.  Shane O’Leary kicked his side to a 3-0 lead on 9 minutes.
 
O’Leary was almost the culprit for a Munster try just minutes later when Conor Murray charged down the out-half in his own 22 but the covering Connacht defence just did enough in getting the first hand to the ball.
 
However Munster immediately came again and a wonderful step and offload from Johnny Holland to Jack O’Donoghue saw the back-row link up beautifully with Simon Zebo who touched down for his 44th Munster try on his 100th appearance for the province. 
 
Holland was also on hand to add the extras and Munster led 3-7 on 13 minutes.
 
Applying serious pressure on the Munster scrum, a penalty to touch soon found Connacht attacking deep in the Munster 22 and for the second time in the game Munster were punished for hands in the ruck.  O’Leary landed the penalty in front of the posts to make it a one point game, 6-7, on 18 minutes.
 
Munster were then gifted another attacking platform when Connacht knocked on in attempting to run the ball from inside their 22, and from the resulting scrum, O’Donoghue was unlucky to be held up short before Munster won another penalty as they went through the phases down the right.
 
Playing with advantage, Zebo kicked cross-field to Keith Earls who was unable to control his grounding under pressure from the cover defence.
 
Feeling they had the upper hand, Holland and Munster opted for the corner, a decision that paid dividends when the visitors mauled over the line with Mike Sherry touching down.  Holland maintained his excellent kicking record in landing the touchline conversion on 24 minutes – 6-14 Munster.
 
Then came the reaction from the hosts.  In the first instance a wonderful line break from Bundee Aki should have seen Connacht touch down but the final pass to Kieran Marmion saw the scrum-half knock on and the chance went a begging.
 
Munster were then reduced to 14 men when James Cronin infringed in the scrum and this time it was Connacht’s turn to refuse the kick for three and instead go down the touchline.
 
Munster remained defiant in defence for over 18 phases, yet despite their gallant efforts, Connacht made the most of emerging gaps and a fortunate bounce – when a pass failed to go to hand – and Niyi Adeolokun dotted down for the western province’s opening try with O’Leary making no mistake in adding the extras.
 
 
Another break from the massively impressive Aki placed Munster on the back foot defensively with the penalty count rising as a result.  Opting for the scrum off of which man-of-the-match Aki was the first receiver, Connacht attacked with great purpose and Munster were then down to 13 men on the stroke of half time when Billy Holland saw yellow for not releasing Finlay Bealham on the tryline – preventing a would be Connacht try.
 
Yet the threat remained and Connacht opted for another scrum.  Munster again infringed, this time exhausting the patience of referee Ben Whitehouse who awarded the hosts a penalty try with O’Leary slotting the simple conversion.
 
The turnaround saw Connacht lead 20-14 at the break and worse was to come from a Munster perspective.
 
As they had done in the first half, Munster controlled most of the early exchanges but Connacht had the measure of their attack, running them into touch when they ran it down the blindside and neutralising their maul when they kept it tight.
 
Losing composure, rising Munster ill-discipline gave Connacht a foothold deep in Munster territory and the hosts dealt their visitors a serious blow on 54 minutes when Munster failed to deal with a Robbie Henshaw grubber into their 22 where the ever opportunistic Adeolokun was on hand to scoop up the loose ball and dive over the whitewash for his second of the night.
 
O’Leary was unable to land the conversion and Munster remained within 11 points of Connacht – 25-14.
 
The southerners looked to have crossed again on 61 minutes after Francis Saili came from deep to gather the short pass from Murray with the men in red camped on the Connacht try line.  However a trip to the TMO confirmed the initial fears of the Munster faithful that Saili had in fact failed to properly gather the ball before touching down – knock on Munster.
 
Connacht in contrast continued to utilise their opportunities and notched up a try bonus point on 65 minutes.  Off yet another penalty, this time in the scrum, Ultan Dillane made a storming run to the Munster try line from where Connacht were clinical through the phases and Bealham found a gap under the posts to run in unopposed. 
 
O’Leary made Munster’s mountain even more insurmountable by adding the conversion – Connacht leading 32-14.
 
Breaks from replacements Robin Copeland and Jack Carty for Munster and Connacht respectably gave cause for cheer in the dying minutes of the game but both cover defences did enough to avert the danger.
 
Symptomatic of Munster’s problems in the second half, further ill-discipline saw O’Leary have the final say of the night, kicking one last penalty with over 80 minutes played to hand Connacht a deserved 35-14 bonus point win at the Sportsground.

PRO12 Round 20 round-up: Tonight saw try scorer Simon Zebo win his 100th cap for the province having also made his debut at the Sportsground in April 2010.
 
From the academy ranks, Rory Scannell again started at inside centre while academy graduate Darren Sweetnam made his first start in a PRO12 interprovincial.
 
In winning, Connacht have achieved their first season’s double over Munster.  The westerners also defeated the men in red at Thomond Park (12-18) in November.

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam (Conway 54), Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Johnny Holland, Conor Murray; James Cronin (Kilcoyne 54), Mike Sherry (Scannell 54), Stephen Archer (JRyan 68); Donnacha Ryan (Coghlan 68), Billy Holland; CJ Stander – capt., Tommy O'Donnell, Jack O'Donoghue (Copeland 55).

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Robin Copeland, Jordan Coghlan, Tomás O'Leary, Ian Keatley, Andrew Conway.

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