CARBERY SHINES IN MUNSTER TRIUMPH
By Daire Walsh
A PLAYER of the match performance by Athy’s Joey Carbery helped Munster to overcome the challenge of Connacht in a pulsating Guinness PRO14 clash at the Sportsground in Galway on Saturday evening.
Fresh from his accomplished display against former club Leinster on 29 December, the exciting Carbery amassed a 16-point haul to propel Johann van Graan’s outfit to the summit of Conference A. Eadestown man Tadhg Beirne was outstanding alongside Jean Kleyn in the Reds’ second-row, as he aims to progress up the international ladder in the absence of injured Ulster lock Iain Henderson.
It is also proving to be a productive 2018/19 for Jeremy Loughman (like Carbery, a native of Athy) – who was making his third start of the season in the Munster front-row.
The former Ardscoil na Trionoide student has made eight senior appearances during the current campaign and has established himself as the principle back-up option to Dave Kilcoyne at loosehead prop.
Despite falling behind to an early Tom Farrell try, Munster soon responded with a Peter O’Mahony five-pointer. Carbery comfortably added the bonuses to this score and also converted a Dan Goggin try as Munster moved into the ascendancy.
A Jack Carty penalty reduced their interval lead to 14-10, however, before Cian Kelleher touched down on the resumption to turn the tables on the visitors. Yet, there was never any sense of panic among the Munster ranks.
Beirne was heavily involved in the build-up to their next try on 49 minutes, which ended with Goggin crossing for a second time. Carbery supplemented his latest converted effort with an expertly-struck close-range penalty, giving Munster a 24-17 cushion heading into the final quarter.
When Carbery superbly side-stepped Matt Healy to claim a seven-point salvo, it appeared to be curtains for Connacht. An impressive Carty finish at the opposite end set up a nail-biting conclusion, but Munster held out to record back-to-back interprovincial triumphs.
Meanwhile, Conference B pace-setters Leinster bounced back from their aforementioned defeat to Munster with a 40-7 demolition of Ulster at the RDS on Saturday.
With one eye on this weekend’s Champions Cup encounter against Toulouse, Leo Cullen rested a host of first-choice players for their opening home game of 2019.
However, ahead of a must-win affair with 2018 finalists Racing 92 at Kingspan Stadium, Ulster fielded a largely experienced line-up for the trip to south Dublin.
Kill’s Adam Byrne was making his eighth start of the season, while Jimmy O’Brien (Eadestown) and James Tracy (Kill) were included among the replacements.
Although they leaked a try to Adam McBurney in the same time period, Sean Cronin (two) and Conor O’Brien crossed the visiting whitewash in the first quarter. Indeed, thanks to an Andrew Porter finish, Leinster had already secured a bonus point by the interval.
Tracy (50 minutes) and Jimmy O’Brien (63 minutes) were introduced after the break, as a Jamison Gibson-Park five-pointer preceded a stoppage-time penalty try in a facile win.