Bundee Aki try helps Connacht to narrow victory in fiery clash with Munster
Andrew Conway’s opportunist 22nd-minute try had Munster 8-3 ahead at half-time, with Connacht’s Oisin Dowling sin-binned late on.
It was Munster’s first URC outing since October and some jostling at the break saw referee Chris Busby show yellow cards to Shane Delahunt and Ben Healy.
Chris Farrell’s yellow for a dangerous 56th-minute tackle on Connacht replacement Tom Farrell could easily have been a red.
Connacht bottled up that frustration to drive Aki over on the hour mark, with replacement Conor Fitzgerald’s crucial conversion earning only their second win in 10 games against Munster.
Andy Friend’s men ruined a promising early maul with obstruction, yet a sharp break by Kieran Marmion preceded an opening 14th-minute penalty from captain Jack Carty.
Munster fly-half Healy quickly replied with a levelling three-pointer, punishing a block by Ultan Dillane. The hosts then conceded a try out of nothing.
Mack Hansen had a clearance kick charged down by Healy, Shane Daly nudged the ball on and Conway dotted down unchallenged in the left corner.
Although Healy missed the difficult conversion, Munster’s well-balanced back row continued to make inroads.
Nonetheless, Hansen did well to deny Conway before Munster’s pack emerged scoreless from a number of late tap penalties.
The niggly exchanges continued on the way to the dressing rooms, some pushing and shoving landing both Healy and Connacht hooker Delahunt in the bin.
With Carty off injured, replacement Fitzgerald’s superb hands had the Connacht attack humming before he missed a penalty.
Mike Haley then had to react sharply to thwart Marmion’s brilliant solo break from an interception.
Following a missed penalty from Healy, Munster were down to 14 men again when Farrell made ‘head-to-head’ contact with his namesake.
With mitigation, referee Busby produced his yellow card, but Munster were soon behind their posts – a cracking maul sending Aki over and Fitzgerald converted in terrific fashion.
Munster tightened up their defence, twice turning over Aki. However, Connacht dominated possession during the closing stages and deservedly finished on top.
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