This weekend we saw two Irish derbies in the Guinness Pro 14 competition and here is how they both played out.
Connacht vs Munster
Munster survived a late onslaught to hold on for a 16-10 win over Connacht in a top-of-Conference B clash. Connacht missed an early opportunity to put points on the board, as their penalty attempt just three minutes in sailed wide.
Connacht then picked up a yellow card 10 minutes in as Shane Delahunt was sent to the sin bin for collapsing a powerful Munster maul, with JJ Hanrahan kicking the resulting penalty to make it 3-0. Around the midpoint of the first half, Munster crossed for the opening try, with Chris Farrell powering his way over to extend the lead to 10-0. Connacht would have to wait until the final play of the first half to get on the board, with Jack Carty kicking a penalty to see them trail 3-10 at the break. Hanrahan slotted an early second half penalty to see Munster restore their ten point advantage at 13-3.
Munster added another three points off the boot of Hanrahan to push their lead out to 16-3 with a little under 20 minutes remaining. Munster remained in control of the match, keeping Connacht out with some aggressive defence. Repeated offences saw Munster receive a yellow card with just three minutes to play. Connacht capitalised immediately on their numerical advantage to put the ball through the hands slickly to send Peter Sullivan over for a try in the corner.
Munster restarted inside the final minute, but Connacht were able to work their way downfield thanks to a penalty and some quick hands saw them race into the 22, with a cross kick gathered by Ultan Dillane who charged to just a few metres out from the line. Munster infringed at the breakdown which saw them reduced to 13 players after another yellow card, with Connacht electing for a scrum 5m out.
Connacht piled on the pressure, keeping it tight just short of the line, but the Munter defence held firm and a knock-on was forced to bring an end to a tense final few minutes.
Leinster vs Ulster
Leinster bounced back from their defeat to Connacht with a crucial 24-12 home win over Conference leaders Ulster. John Cooney opened the scoring for Ulster with a penalty 15 minutes in to lead 3-0. Johnny Sexton had a chance to level matters midway through the first half, but his penalty attempt went wide.
Shortly after Leinster were on the board, as Jamison Gibson-Park spotted Dave Kearney out wide and threw a brilliant cut out pass which saw him dive over in the corner with a superb finish, Ulster picked up a yellow card around the half hour mark which saw Marcell Coetzee shown his marching orders for a high tackle. Leinster failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage and it was the visitors who managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over with Cooney slotting two penalties in the final 5 minutes of the half to see Ulster take a 9-5 lead into the break.
Leinster needed a response in the second half, with defeat almost certainly ending their Conference Title hopes. They did just that, with Sean Cronin dotting down behind a powerful maul just three minutes in to see Leinster take the lead, 12-9. Momentum had swung in Leinster's favour and Robbie Henshaw broke a tackle to crash over ten minutes later to see the hosts in control, up 17-9 after 53 minutes of play.
A Cooney penalty saw Ulster back in striking distance with around ten minutes remaining. Leinster then delivered the knockout blow, with James Tracy coming off the bench to score the all important bonus point try off the back of another strong maul with just over 5 minutes to play.
Ulster would have a late flurry to try snatch a losing bonus point, but Leinster kept them out for the all important victory which saw them control their own destiny in the hunt for top spot in the Conference, while Ulster suffered their first defeat in this Pro14 season.
Irish Derbies Team of the Week:
1.Cian Healy (Leinster)
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
3. Finlay Bealham (Connacht)
4. Alan O’Connor (Ulster)
5. Tadhg Beirne (Munster)
6. Rhys Ruddock (Leinster)
7. Jordi Murphy (Ulster)
8. CJ Stander (Munster)
9. Connor Murray (Munster)
10. JJ Hanarahan (Munster)
11. Dave Kearney (Leinster)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster)
13. Chris Farrell (Munster)
14. Peter Sullican (Connacht)
15. Hugo Keenan (Leinster)