Pro14: Clinical Munster edge out Connacht 19-14 in Galway derby game
|Guinness Pro14: Connacht v Munster|
|Connacht (9) 14|
|Try: Carty Pens: Fitzgerald 3|
|Munster (16) 19|
|Try: O'Donoghue Con: Hanrahan Pens: Hanrahan 4|
Munster produced a clinical display to beat Connacht 19-14 in the Pro14 Conference B top-two game in Galway.
Jack O'Donoghue's try helped Munster lead 16-9 at half-time as three Conor Fitzgerald penalties were all Connacht had to show for plenty of possession.
JJ Hanrahan's fourth successful penalty increased Munster's lead as the away side were able to disrupt a couple of threatening Connacht maul chances.
Jack Carty's late try gave Connacht a sniff but Munster closed the game out.
Munster remain top of Conference B
Munster's win moves them four points ahead of Connacht at the top of the table although Andy Friend's side remain second in Conference B after third-placed Edinburgh were beaten 20-16 by Glasgow in Saturday's Scottish derby
Connacht included full-back Tiernan O'Halloran for the first time in a couple of months after injury while Munster handed a first start to scrum-half Craig Casey as they made 10 changes from the Champions Cup defeat by Saracens.
As it their wont under coach Friend, Connacht attempted to play expansive rugby in the first half but lacked a cutting edge when they did reach Munster's 22.
In contrast, Munster were invariably able to turn their forays into opposition territory into points.
After Hanrahan kicked Munster into a ninth-minute lead, Connacht pressed strongly only for Chris Cloete to rip possession from home fly-half Fitzgerald although the number 10 soon levelled from a penalty.
However, Hanrahan restored Munster's lead in the 21st minute and his clever grubber kick then forced opposite number Fitzgerald to concede a line-out deep in his own 22 which yielded O'Donoghue's try following a well-constructed maul as the visitors moved 13-3 up.
The maul was to prove a pivotal aspect of the contest as Connacht were unable to exploit a couple of similar opportunities in the second period.
Two Fitzgerald penalties either side of another successful Hanrahan kick reduced Munster's lead to 16-9 at the break.
However given the low-scoring nature of the contest, in marked contrast to Friday's try-fest at the RDS, Munster were in firm control when Hanrahan extended their advantage to 19-9 within five minutes of the restart.
Connacht attempted to rally with a Kyle Godwin break putting the visitors under pressure as Chris Farrell scampered back to gather on the line before winning a relieving penalty as the chasing home wing was pinged for going off his feet.
The hosts continued to press and Caolin Blade's snipe, after Connacht finally got an attacking maul right, set up Carty to finish in the corner but the replacement fly-half missed the conversion and Munster were able to control the final six minutes of action.
Connacht: O'Halloran, Porch, Daly, Aki, Godwin; C Fitzgerald, Blade; Buckley, Heffernan, Bealham, Dillane, Roux, Masterson, Boyle, McKeon.
Replacements: Delahunt, Kenny, Robertson-McCoy, Maksymiw, Copeland, Kerins, Carty, S Fitzgerald.
Munster: Daly, Nash, Farrell, Goggin, L Coombes; Hanrahan, Casey; Kilcoyne, O'Bryne, Archer, Kleyn, Holland, G Coombes, Cloete, Stander (capt).
Replacements: Barron, Loughman, Knox, Wycherley, O'Donoghue, Cronin, Healy, Arnold.