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JJ Hanrahan boots Connacht to victory over Munster

By PA
(Photo By Eoin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

JJ Hanrahan’s right boot ensured Connacht ended a run of five defeats in all competitions as injury-ravaged Munster went down 22-9 at the Sportsground.

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The unrelenting rain made for a dour BKT United Rugby Championship derby, with Munster leading 6-3 at half-time after Tony Butler’s brace of penalties.

Connacht, who had Byron Ralston sin-binned just before the break, had the better of the second half despite Butler briefly giving Munster a 9-6 advantage.

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Stormers head coach John Dobson on the lack of attacking fizz in his side

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Stormers head coach John Dobson on the lack of attacking fizz in his side

Adding to his opening 16th-minute kick, a wind-backed Hanrahan fired over four more penalties before converting replacement Jack Aungier’s clinching 77th-minute try.

Held try-less for the second game running, first-half injuries for Oli Jager and Jack O’Donoghue added to Munster’s mid-season woes.

Having missed out on an early try due to Gavin Coombes’ knee touching the end-line, the visitors suffered another setback when prop Jager was stretched off following a double tackle.

Connacht also lost the services of Cathal Forde, with Jack Carty slotting in at fly-half and Hanrahan, who opened the scoring from the Munster 22-metre line, moving to centre.

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A Hanrahan fumble, coupled with a sliced Mack Hansen kick, gave Munster the platform to draw level through Butler in the 22nd minute.

A brilliant 50:22 kick from Butler was followed up by a crooked throw from Scott Buckley – Munster’s lineout struggled at key stages – and Connacht absorbed some more pressure after a Carty kick was blocked by Tom Ahern.

Butler’s 31st-minute penalty did edge Munster in front for the first time, but O’Donoghue had to be replaced after his knee was damaged by Ralston’s dangerous entry at a breakdown.

The Connacht winger returned from his sin-binning, nine minutes into the second period, with Hanrahan having kicked the hosts level.

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As the rain continued to sheet down, Munster captain Tadhg Beirne increased his influence at the breakdown and Butler split the posts from just inside the opposition 22.

However, Hanrahan made it nine-all when punishing a John Hodnett offside, and with Munster’s John Ryan popping up at a scrum, Connacht moved back in front with 14 minutes remaining.

Hanrahan then landed his best strike of the night, from just inside the Munster half with nine minutes to go, before narrowly missing from halfway.

Skipper Caolin Blade and Hansen both had to go off, but Connacht sealed the result when prop Aungier, supported by Denis Buckley, drove over after the Munster lineout had misfired again.

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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