Munster finally secure first derby triumph of the season against depleted Connacht side
Munster 39 Connacht 13
It took Munster until the second half to click into gear but once they did, the hosts demolished Connacht to win their first derby of the season, and in the process, ended their two-game losing streak.
It was by no means a vintage 80-minute performance but Johann van Graan will be mightily relieved as his side wrestled back some momentum ahead of their crucial trip to Paris to play Racing next weekend.
Connacht had impressed against Ulster and Leinster over the last fortnight, but with Kieran Keane opting to rest three of their key internationals, the Westerners looked weary as they arrived in Limerick.
Trailing 10- 6 at the break, they were very much in the contest but they were blown away as Munster's big game players stepped up to the mark.
Ian Keatley controlled the tempo, while their electric back-three wreaked havoc with Andrew Conway in particular providing the much-needed spark every time he got ball in hand. Conway set Munster on their way to the bonus point win as he added an early second half try after Darren O'Shea had gotten over in the first.
Conor Murray ran the show for the home side and he helped himself to two tries after Keith Earls had scored in the corner.
All week Munster had spoken of their need to eradicate their sloppy disciplinary issues but inside the first minute, they handed Connacht an early chance to score.
Rory Scannell was penalised and Jack Carty bisected the posts with the resulting penalty with a sweet strike from wide on the right.
Munster slowly gained a foothold and they eventually made the pressure count. Chris Farrell, who was making his first appearance since injuring his knee for Ireland against Argentina, carried powerfully in midfield, just short of the line.
The ball was recycled quickly for O'Shea who crashed over for his second try for the province. Ian Keatley's conversion gave his side a 7-3 lead but they were pegged back four minutes later when Farrell was pinged for not releasing Carty in the tackle. The Connacht out-half stepped up and again punished Munster's indiscipline.
The error count continued to rise, with Munster repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot with sloppy mistakes.
Keatley declined a kickable penalty and when Munster fluffed their lines after the lineout, he didn't think twice about pointing to the posts after half an hour when Jarrad Butler was penalised at a breakdown. Keatley made no mistake with the kick front in front of the posts.
Munster continued to pile on the pressure but almost in keeping with a fractured first half display, Connacht stole the ball deep inside their own 22 to trail 10-6 at the break.
The lead was stretched to seven-points 10 minutes after the restart when Keatley maintained his 100pc record with the boot from in front of the posts.
Connacht were largely dominant at scrum time and although Munster had just won a penalty at the set-piece, van Graan didn't hesitate in looking for two fresh props from the bench.
James Cronin and Stephen Archer might claim that it was their influence who helped reignite Munster but in truth, a second try had been coming. It did however, arrive a minute after the pair were on the bench.
Tiernan O'Halloran won't want to see a replay of this one as he made a mess of Keatley's clever grubber-kick and Conway was on hand to pounce on the full-back's mistake and score.
Keatley's unerring accuracy with the boot continued as he added the extras and suddenly Munster were 20-6 in front.
Connacht were looking ragged and Munster sensed blood. Keatley was again central to their third try as he linked well with Scannell in midfield who put Conway through a gaping hole. The in-from Conway then turned provider as he put it on a plate for Earls who had the easiest of tasks to score in the corner.
Keatley was wide with the conversion but nevertheless, it was quickly going from bad the worse for Keane's side as Quinn Roux was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tip tackle on Earls, with the crowd howling for a red. The lock was lucky it wasn't.
It took Munster a minute to make their numerical advantage count as they wrapped up the bonus point with 15 minutes still left on the clock.
They pounded away at the line, with Cronin going close but Murray characteristically sniped over from close range to put the result beyond any doubt. Keatley's conversion put his side into a 32-5 lead.
Murray repeated the trick six minutes later after more good work from the pack with Keatley again on target. That would be Murray's last action as he was replaced, with van Graan very much looking to the Champions Cup next weekend.
Tom McCartney did get over for a consolation score, which Carty converted late on but by that stage, Munster's focus was well and truly on Europe.
Scorers – Munster: Murray 2 tries, O'Shea, Conway, Earls, 1 try each, Keatley 2 pens & 4 cons. Connacht: McCartney 1 try, Carty 2 pens & 1 con.
Munster - S Zebo (D Sweetnam 61); A Conway, C Farrell (B Johnston 65), R Scannell, K Earls; I Keatley, C Murray (D Williams 70); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 52), R Marshall (M Sherry 61), J Ryan (S Archer 52); J Kleyn (R Copeland 66), D O'Shea; J O'Donoghue, C Oliver, CJ Stander (capt).
Connacht - T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun (D Leader 61), E Griffin, P Ahki, M Healy; J Carty (C Ronaldson 66), C Blade (J Mitchell 68); P McCabe (C O'Donnell 75), T McCartney, C Carey (F Bealham 57); Q Roux, J Cannon (G Thornbury h-t); C Gallagher, J Butler, J Muldoon (capt) (P Boyle 57).
REF - D Wilkinson (IRFU)