CONNACHT produced a shock result in the citadel of Munster rugby with a performance full of determination and purpose in the U-18 Schools Interprovincial Championship at Thomond Park yesterday.
Connacht’s elation at withstanding several late assaults on their line to emerge victorious was understandable. Their coach Tony Dolan has pieced together a squad that showed its capabilities by winning each of its three matches in the Youths Interpros and proved this was no fluke.
In a game spoiled by torrential rain that fell for most of the 70 minutes, it made handling a particularly difficult exercise. However brave Connacht adapted much better to the conditions and deserved their success, which leaves Munster needing a win over Leinster at Musgrave Park on Wednesday next to have any hope of claiming the title.
Munster took the early advantage, claiming a 10th-minute try by Crescent centre Ian Cross, carved out by winger Diarmuid McCarthy with a superb pass for a splendid try. However, Connacht were undeterred and two penalties by Sean Joyce saw them into a 6-5 interval lead.
They maintained the momentum on the restart and stretched their lead in the 41st minute. Skipper John O’Brien of Garbally took a short pass from Joyce, nipped through a gap and showed great pace to touch down just to the right of the posts. Munster narrowed the gap to three points with a well-struck 35-metre penalty by Andrew Burke on 51 minutes.
The outstanding PBC flanker Brian O’Hara, who along with his Christians second-row colleague Kyle O’Dwyer were the leading lights in the Munster pack, then set off on an old-fashioned foot-rush from his own 22 metre line but the attack foundered when a teammate was penalised for holding on the ground. Munster remained on the offensive but Connacht were not to be denied.
The pack as a whole withstood a few close range line-out assaults to seal a great result for western rugby.
MUNSTER: R. O’Mahony (Castletroy); D. McCarthy (Castletroy), M. Kelleher (St Munchins), I. Cross (Crescent), P. Gleeson (Ard Scoil Ris); A. Burke (Crescent), C. Nolan (CBC); D. Kavanagh (St Munchins), P. Kelleher (PBC), J. Bransfield (CBC), K. O’Dwyer (CBC), I. Duffy (Rockwell), B. O’Callaghan (CBC), B. O’Hara (PBC), J. Ryan (Rockwell). Replacements, D. Toomey (Ard Scoil Ris) for Kavanagh and P. O’Mahony (PBC) for Duffy 46 mins; B. Sheehan (Ard Scoil Ris) and M. Doyle (Crescent) for O’Callaghan and Cross, 50 mins.
CONNACHT: L. Keegan (Rice Westport); K. Russell (Col Iognaid Galway), J. O’Brien (Garbally), C. Moyles (Col Iognaid), B. Henshaw (Marist Athlone); S. Joyce (Clifden SC); A. Kennedy (Marist); J. East (Sligo GS), J. Barrett (Calascantius Oranmore), C. Higgins (Gallen SC Ferbane), M. Seeley (Scoil Muire & Padraig Swinford), F. Moyles (Col Iognaid), L. Carpenter (Rice College), D. Murphy (Col Iognaid), D. Ott (Yates Colleges Galway).
Replacements, J. Robinson (Gort CS) for East, S. Conneely (St Josephs) for Ott, both 51 mins.
Referee: K. Imbush (IRFU).