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Nothing To Do But Sit Back And Marvel At How Connacht Beat Munster Tonight

Nothing To Do But Sit Back And Marvel At How Connacht Beat Munster Tonight
By Donny Mahoney Updated

Watching and shouting for Connacht Rugby makes you a pessimist. The first thing I thought when Craig Ronaldson's conversion fluttered wide following 'Crocodile' Bundee Aki's amazing try was this: there's still time for Connacht to lose this. There were about two minutes left, and even though Munster had hardly created anything the whole match, it would have seemed fitting if they stole a late try and ripped Connacht's heart out. It would have been the most Connacht way for the game to end.

Not tonight. Connacht won. It was their first time Connacht beat Munster at Thomond since 1986. 'Don't Leave Me This Way' was the number 1 single in the UK that year. John Muldoon was four years old (though he probably had a beard). It was a long, long time ago.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ha5HrQryLk

Sometimes it seems like the universe is conspiring against Connacht. Think of the highly-frustrating refereeing in the Cardiff game last season that derailed their Champions Cup push and caused Pat Lam to go nuclear. Or the highly-frustrating refereeing during the Gloucecster game last season that cost Connacht a chance at the Champions Cup playoff in France. There were the myriad delays on their way back from their Siberian sojourn. The big story of the week in Irish rugby is how Connacht's (and Irleand's) brightest light is 99% sure to join Leinster next season. Pat Lam must feel like Job most of the time.

Adversity came knocking again in the second half tonight. With Connacht up 13-5, Ian Keatley made a line break deep in enemy territory, John Muldoon disrupted the offload to Andrew Conway and referee Ben Whitehouse decided to award one of the more controversial penalty tries you'll ever see.

Down a man and suddenly up only one point, Connacht could have very easily imploded. Given their recent history of getting screwed, they would have been entitled to implode. Instead they gathered themselves, kept Munster off the scoreboard while Muldoon was in the sin bin and took the game to Munster after he returned. Aki was emotional afterwards. This was more than a Pro 12 game. Thomond is Connacht's graveyard.

You think of Eric Elwood on nights like this and the groundwork he laid but you have to respect the work Pat Lam has done in turning Connacht into such a resilient and brittle force. On the road, in a place where they always lose, Connacht played their way, with the ball in hand, to the bitter end. I was looking at the empty seats in Thomond and daydreaming about this win becoming the catalyst for a Connacht bandwagon to rival the Munster one of last decade. Maybe - daydreaming - the Sportsground will have 30,000 seats in 10 years time.

Obviously, Connacht have used the World Cup to their advantage, but regardless, they've lost one game this season. They are the only good thing happening in Irish rugby right now not named Josh van der Flier. And best of all, there's still plenty of room on the Conancht bandwagon.

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