Thursday 18 January 2018

Marmion stakes his claim

Connacht 28 Munster 12

Munster's Dave O'Callaghan is tackled by Quinn Roux and Craig Ronaldson
Munster's Dave O'Callaghan is tackled by Quinn Roux and Craig Ronaldson

Declan Rooney

Kieran Marmion put in a mighty impressive 40 minutes as two first-half tries put him firmly in Joe Schmidt's World Cup thoughts.

Marmion twice sniped down the blindside off Connacht mauls to score, while new signing Nepia Fox-Matamua also finished off the back of a strong Connacht maul.

Ireland forwards' coach Simon Easterby was in Thomond Park to cast his eye over Marmion and tight-head Nathan White who impressed during his half-hour appearance.

But the best news of the night saw Mike Sherry score from a Munster maul after three minutes. It was a great way for Sherry to crown his first Munster start in 21 months after horrible knee and shoulder injuries.

But after an impressive start Anthony Foley would have been dismayed to see his side fall behind in the 17th minute when Marmion struck first. A fine touchline conversion from Jack Carty made it 7-5 to Connacht.

After a yellow card for Matt D'Arcy, the Ireland hopeful bagged his second try in the 25th minute when the Munster defence opened up again, and Carty was accurate with his touchline conversion to make it 14-5.

A sustained period of Munster possession produced a try for captain CJ Stander, and Ian Keatley converted seven minutes before the break, but just before the interval Pat Lam's side mauled their hosts once more to lead 21-12 at the break.

New signing Francis Saili made his much-anticipated debut ten minutes into the second half, but Connacht soon pulled 14 points clear after referee David Wilkinson awarded a penalty-try to Lam's side.

Once more it came off a driving Connacht maul, but with Eoin McKeon primed to score, Munster collapsed and the referee made Craig Ronaldson's conversion a formality.

Connacht - D Leader; T O'Halloran, R Parata, B Aki, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; JP Cooney, T McCartney, R Ah You; U Dillane, A Browne, J Muldoon (capt), N Fox-Matamua, E Masterson. Reps used: D Poolman, D McSharry, F Bealham, D Heffernan, J Cooney, Q Roux, N White, E McKeon, C Ronaldson, B Marshall, G Naoupu,

Munster - D Johnston; S Monahan, C Bohane, M D'Arcy, G van den Heever; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, S Archer; S McCarthy, D Foley; Dave O'Callaghan, J O'Donoghue, CJ Stander (capt). Reps used: J Coghlan, N Scannell,C Sheridan, B Johnston, F Saili, J Madigan, BJ Botha, K O'Byrne, J Ryan, Donncha O'Callaghan, S Buckley, S Fitzgerald.

Ref - D Wilkinson (IRFU)

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