Hawkeye Sidekick

Connacht Rugby 10-8 Munster Rugby

Connacht Rugby deservedly win

These have been strange times for the URC this festive period. Covid-19 cancellations the predominant theme. It was great to just have a game on today in Ireland to watch so the action in the Sportsgrounds was a late Christmas treat. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action in Galway as the hosts deservedly beat the host in a feisty contest.

Initial Thoughts

A deserved victory for Connacht Rugby. They were the side who tried to play attractive, expansive rugby in much improved weather conditions than forecast. The attacking lines from Andy Friend’s charges far more accurate in comparison to a Munster Rugby side who did not throw a punch in anger with ball in hand.

Officials lost control early and often

I hate to bring up the officiating but this is a local derby fixture. Emotions will be high, retribution never far away. The man in the middle needs to assert his authority on the fixture from minute one but it never happened.

Chris Busby unfortunately was a bystander early as both sides settled old scores and created new ones which will fester when these two sides meet again. Several flashpoints during the contest.

Chris Farrell tackle is a red card all day long for me but Chris Busby looked for a way not to issue the red card with mitigation. Poor call.

The Connacht Rugby defensive set before half-time. Busby lecturing with empty words but no action or authority. Penalty try should have been awarded after the fourth penalty concession. Connacht Rugby continued to concede pens.

Munster Rugby’s try you could argue was a penalty try. John Porch tackles Shane Daly without the ball. Andrew Conway scores but the conversion was from an impossible angle. A key decision missed. Two points missed.

The half-time melee was inevitable. Both sides were privately laughing at the match officials during the opening half. Shane Delahunt looking to conclude exchanges with Chris Farrell. Ben Healy joins the melee. Delahunt and Healy given ten minutes to cool off but the damage was done.

Marquee Moments

After both sides traded early penalties, Munster Rugby scored a try out of nothing. It rewarded a good kick chase from Andrew Conway, Shane Daly and Ben Healy who launched it deep.

Mack Hansen is an exciting player with ball in hand but there are defensive questions for the player to answer (for me). The winger far too relaxed and slow getting the ball away. Healy blocks which sets up the try. You think back to the Dan Sheehan try when Hansen was caught defensively, there are defensive areas to work on.

Connacht Rugby’s defensive stand at the end of the half gave the hosts energy and momentum. Munster Rugby will complain on the lack of a penalty try but the lack of attacking variation was dreadful and whether three points should have been taken after several drives is another topic entirely to discuss.

The game winning Connacht Rugby try. Munster Rugby indiscipline. Connacht Rugby creating pressure deep in Munster Rugby territory. The lineout was well executed, an excellent maul drive and Bundee Aki is not going to be stopped from close range. A superb touchline conversion from Conor Fitzgerald to make it 10-8.

Post Game Thoughts

Munster Rugby I thought could not get any worse after Castres but I was wrong. The attacking game plan was what exactly? Stephen Larkham and Johann van Graan should seriously consider departing the setup early. They have collectively lost the dressing room; the players do not appear to believe in the attacking side of the game anymore. Two very subdued performances in the attacking sense.

The attacking side of Munster Rugby’s game best articulated by Ben Healy deciding to drop-goal from his own half in the second half. An awful decision. The only cohesive attacking line break was Damien de Allende who strode out and kicked the leather off the ball into touch.

There is an abundance of talent in this Munster Rugby back line but slow ruck ball is killing the side. Casey like Murray against Castres not able to create attacking tempo. Running options for Casey were limited tonight hence the intercept pass out wide to Andrew Conway. Attacking side of the ball is a mess.

Jack Crowley will be primed for action. Ben Healy may have the boot but his game management is quite clearly a work in progress. No attacking rhythm. Craig Casey uncharacteristic errors today. Half-backs had no impact on the game.

Connacht Rugby will enjoy this win. The work rate, determination and resilience in the opening half to the fore. Prendergast, Oliver and Butler impressive in the breakdown. Bundee Aki looked dangerous whenever he had the ball. They played the accurate rugby tonight, fully deserved the win. They looked to create width on the ball with each attacking phase.

The only area of improvement is how Connacht Rugby improve defensively and not to give away frequent penalties deep on their own line. Leicester Tigers made hay last time out in European Cup action when Connacht Rugby gave away pens deep in their own half. It happened again tonight, perhaps lucky not to conceded a second try before the break tonight. Coaching team will duly take note.