Pro12: Munster 50-14 Connacht

Danie Poolman and Tiernan O'Halloran try to halt the progress of Keith Earls
Danie Poolman and Tiernan O'Halloran try to halt the progress of Keith Earls
Pro12: Munster v Connacht
Munster (24) 50
Tries: Earls, O'Donoghue, Conway 2, Cronin, Saili, Oliver Cons: Keatley 6 Pen: Keatley
Connacht (0) 14
Tries: Kelleher, Dawai Cons: Ronaldson 2

Munster ran in seven tries as they finished top of the Pro12 table by crushing Connacht in Saturday's Irish interprovincial derby at Thomond Park.

The victory enabled Munster to leapfrog Leinster and secure a home semi-final against Ospreys on Saturday 20 May.

Conor Murray returned to action as a replacement after two months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

Last year's Pro12 champions Connacht end up eighth in the standings after a disappointing defence of their crown.

Departing coach Pat Lam now leads his side into a Champions Cup play-off semi-final away to Northampton Saints or Gloucester.

Ulster's 17-13 victory over Leinster on the final day of the regular Pro12 season saw Munster move one point ahead at the top.

Andrew Conway crossed twice for the home side, with Keith Earls, Jack O'Donoghue, James Cronin, Francis Saili and Conor Oliver also touching down.

Fly-half Ian Keatley contributed 15 points with the boot courtesy of six conversions and a penalty.

British and Irish Lions squad member Murray was introduced as a 52nd-minute substitute for his first taste of the action since suffering his injury while playing for Ireland against Wales in a Six Nations game on 10 March.

Cian Kelleher and Naulia Dawai were the Connacht try-scorers, Craig Ronaldson converting both.

Munster take control from the start

Earls crashed over to give Munster an early lead and the hosts extended their advantage when Connacht were penalised at the breakdown and Keatley kicked a penalty to give his side a 10-point cushion.

A second try soon followed as O'Donoghue finished off a fine move involving Cronin and Conway, before Conway produced a fine finish to dive over in the right corner after a clever offload from Keatley.

Munster continued their domination after the break, Cronin driving over from close range to clinch a bonus point and give his side a 31-0 lead with 35 minutes still to play.

The visitors hit back with half an hour to play when Kelleher expertly caught a high cross-field kick from Jack Carty to touch down.

Scrum-half Murray made an immediate impact as his quick ball led to full-back Conway skipping over for his second of the game.

Connacht kept going, though, and got on the board again as Dawai powered over from the back of a rolling maul with a little more than 15 minutes to play, Ronaldson's conversion reducing the deficit to 24 points.

But Munster continued to press and replacement Saili picked up a loose ball in the Connacht 22 to touch down in the 69th minute and give Keatley a simple conversion for a 45-15 lead.

The 50-point barrier was broken with an Oliver try in the right corner as the clock ticked into the red, with Keatley unable to maintain his 100 per cent kicking record as he was off target from the right touchline.

Munster: A Conway; A Wootton, J Taute, D Goggin, K Earls; I Keatley, A Lloyd; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer; D O'Shea, B Holland (capt); J Deysel, C Oliver, J O'Donoghue.

Replacements: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, P O'Mahony, T O'Donnell, C Murray, T Bleyendaal, F Saili.

Connacht: T O'Halloran; D Poolman, T Farrell, C Ronaldson, C Kelleher; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, S Delahunt, C Carey; Q Roux, A Browne; E McKeon, J Connolly, J Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: D Heffernan, JP Cooney, F Bealham, S O'Brien, N Dawai, J Cooney, M Boshoff, D Leader.

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