2 January 2024
~2 minutes read
Connacht 22-9 Munster – United Rugby Championship
Out-half JJ Hanrahan’s boot ensured Connacht ended a run of five defeats in all competitions as they beat Munster 22-9 at the Sportsground on New Year’s Day.
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. 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. A Hanrahan fumble, coupled with a sliced Mack Hansen kick, gave Munster the platform to draw level through Butler in the 22nd minute.
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. 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 to make it 9-6.
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. Here is the match-winning try as described by Galway Bay FM’s Rob Murphy and Joe Healy…