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Munster grind it out to shatter Connacht hearts at the death

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Munster 20 Connacht 18

In time-honoured fashion, Munster dug deep and needed their 16th man to overcome their own faultlines and a smart, hugely motivated Connacht to ensure they marked the fifth anniversary of Anthony Foley’s passing with a win.

Somehow, because of the day that was in it, you sensed they would do so in the end, and in dramatic fashion as well. Their skillset and execution, especially in the opposite 22, was flawed albeit they rolled their sleeves up and threatened to bludgeon Connacht into submission.

Save for the pre-ordained tactic of Joey Carbery cross-kicking for Andrew Conway and Mike Haley’s fine counter-attacking into the first-half wind, their outside backs hardly featured. Simon Zebo hardly saw the ball.

It was hard luck on Connacht, who weren’t remotely in the mood to be sacrificial lambs, with the width of the upright and two questionable decisions heavily influencing the outcome.

Their launch plays were better, they opportunistically took their scores and were defiant in the midst of Munster’s second-half storm and Thomond Park’s traditional fervour when the going gets tough for their team.

Connacht’s defeat came at a cost too, with their outstanding flanker Cian Prendergast wheeled off the pitch with his leg in a brace. Encouragingly he didn’t look in much pain, but he’s a tough young player.

Prior to the game, in a classy touch, the visiting captain Jack Carty presented a Connacht jersey inscribed with the number 8 and Axel on the back to Peter O’Mahony.

Closer to kick-off, the date was formerly acknowledged over the PA system, with mention for his wife Olive and kids Tony and Dan (all of whom had been invited to the game along with the extended family) as an image of Foley in that familiar ball-carrying gait was displayed on the big screen.

A tribute on the big screen before the game on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley’s passing. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
A tribute on the big screen before the game on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of Anthony ‘Axel’ Foley’s passing. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

This prompted a minute-long standing ovation as the Munster players completed their traditional lap after their warm-up.

Heavy rain up until an hour before kick-off ensured the pitch was very greasy before there was that rarity, a clean break with a strike move off the game’s first lineout.

Even in defeat last week, Connacht’s launch plays were well executed and off Niall Murray’s take at the front, Carty used the decoy run of ex-Munsterman Sammy Arnold to hit Mack Hansen up the middle before he linked with Bundee Aki who had Conor Oliver, also returning to his old haunt, on his inside. When Tadhg Beirne went off his feet, Carty opened the scoring.

Connacht’s scrum, not unexpectedly, was in difficulty from the off, but Paul Boyle adroitly scooped the ball from between his feet and, but for Zebo racing back and diving full-length, Carty would have executed a 50-22 from inside his own 22.

As it was, he soon did manage the feat, although Munster survived thanks to Gavin Coombes’ strength over the ball.

As expected it soon became a feisty affair. When Peter O’Mahony took exception to Boyle trying to retrieve the ball from Niall Scannell after Arnold had won a penalty in the jackal it prompted the first two bouts of scuffling.

Peter O’Mahony catches a ball. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho
Peter O’Mahony catches a ball. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Aki wouldn’t have been alone in thinking the penalty against him for holding on was ridiculous but, when he came charging again, Cloete was pinged for not releasing, although not for the first or last time in the match Chris Busby showed no inclination to wait for an advantage.

Connacht went to the corner and after the maul was held up and Aki carried up, Tiernan O’Halloran cleverly palmed a loose ball out to Hansen for a finish in the corner, but replays showed the ball had gone forward.

Only Munster’s work over the ball, Cloete winning another turnover penalty, was keeping them above water. Cue a big maul and the option to go to the corner, only for Scannell’s overthrow to be gathered by Oliver.

It was very stop-start.

Prendergast also thought he had scored from 45 metres but there had been a preceding knock-on, before Arnold was harshly binned for going in higher in a double hit with Aki and clashing heads with Haley. Not even the home crowd could summon much in the way of complaint when the incident was replayed.

Indicative of a patchy first-half performance, initially Munster couldn’t translate their numerical advantage into anything tangible. There was a clean break by Conway from Craig Casey’s sumptuously disguised left-handed behind-the-back flick, but Carty made the covering tackle and Carbery couldn’t gather the low offload.

But the best feature of Munster’s game had been Haley’s counter-attack, and he ran Crossfield to link with Conway for a trademark grubber.

When a sliding O’Halloran couldn’t gather the slippery pill, Munster recycled it and Rory Scannell crosskicked to four unmarked teammates on the left. Beirne tried to trap the ball on the volley before hacking on for Cloete to win the touchdown.

Surprisingly, TMO Brian MacNeice and Busby overlooked the still replay which clearly showed, with the help of the 10 metre line, that Beirne had been in front of the ball when Scannell kick-passed.

Carbery converted to give Munster a flattering 7-6 interval lead, and Connacht could feel rightly aggrieved with the Arnold yellow card and the award of the try.

On the resumption, Munster sought to maximise their advantage by going to the corner but Cloete was held up over the line by Carty, Matthew Burke and John Porch.

From a Coombes charge and offload to Beirne, Munster resorted to a route one, pick-and-jam assault, but when Cloete burrowed toward the line, Boyle won a penalty in the jackal.

However, Dave Heffernan’s overthrow went straight to Scannell and a penalty for offside enabled Carbery to make it 10-6.

Connacht weren’t done though, going up the line and stretching Munster on both edges after another clever launch saw Heffernan wrap around and hit Blade on an out-and-in line.

Boyle tapped a close-range penalty and when Jean Kleyn and Cloete both went low, he simply dived over them to score but, crucially, Carty’s conversion drifted onto the outside of the post.

Connacht’s Paul Boyle celebrates scoring his side’s first try. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho
Connacht’s Paul Boyle celebrates scoring his side’s first try. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Connacht mucked up the restart and Munster mucked up another attack before a maul penalty lead to Carbery restoring the home lead.

In one of the season’s more unusual entries, Shane Delahunt came on, immediately gathered a Munster overthrow inside his own half, hoofed upfield, saw the ball squirm away from Conway for a 50-22 and punched the air in celebration. Alas, his ensuing throw was crooked.

Even so, Connacht kept coming, Abraham Papali’i putting them on the front foot from turnover ball as they went through the phases up to the Munster 22 before he knocked on.

Whereupon, out of nothing, Carbery took too long in winding up for a downfield punt which was charged down by the alert Carty. He gathered and scored gleefully under the posts before adding a conversion.

Crucially, the referee awarded Fineen Wycherley a turnover scrum when seeming to continue playing the ball on the deck after Ultan Dillane’s take.

Coombes tapped one penalty before Munster opted for a five metres and then tapped another after an exhaustive pick-and-jam before, by way of variety, Jack O’Donoghue popped the ball for Diarmuid Barron to plunge over.

Carbery calmly nailed the conversion to nudge Munster in front at the last.

Scoring sequence: 2 mins Carty pen 0-3; 10 mins Carty pen 0-6; 39 mins Cloete try, Carbery con 7-6; (half-time 7-6); 49 mins Carbery pen 10-6; 53 mins Boyle try 10-11; 59 mins Carbery pen 13-11; 69 mins Carty try and con 13-18; 78 mins Barron try, Carbery con 20-18.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Keith Earls, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (C), Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes. Replacements: Diarmuid Barron for N Scannell, Jeremy Loughman for Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer for Ryan (all 54 mins), Dan Goggin for R Scannell (57 mins), Fineen Wycherley for Kleyn (60 mins), Jack O’Donoghue for Cloete (68 mins). Not used: Neil Cronin, Jake Flannery.

Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Caolin Blade; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Ultan Dillane; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Paul Boyle. Replacements: Jarrad Butler for Prendergast (47 mins), Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Abraham Papali’i for Boyle (59 mins), Kieran Marmion for Blade (61 mins), Jack Aungier for Bealham (64 mins), Greg McGrath for Burke, Eoghan Masterson for Dillane (74 mins). Not used: Tom Daly.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

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Teenage girl travelling on scooter seriously injured in collision

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A teenage girl was seriously injured after she was struck by a van while she was travelling on a push scooter in Dublin, gardaí have said.

The collision happened on Walkinstown Avenue in Dublin 12 shortly after 6pm on Wednesday.

The teenager is being treated for serious injuries at Children’s Health Ireland Hospital in Crumlin. No other injuries were reported from the incident.

The scene was preserved for technical examination, and investigations are continuing.

Gardaí are appealing to anyone with information on the incident to contact them at Crumlin Garda station on 01-666-6200, the Garda confidential line on 1800-666-111 or any Garda station.

Any person, whether a motorist or pedestrian, who was travelling along Walkinstown Avenue on Wednesday between 5.45pm and 6.30pm is also asked to come forward.

Gardaí have asked that any camera footage is made available to them.

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Preparation for next winter’s wave of pandemic already under way, says Tánaiste

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested that the Covid-19 pandemic could continue into next winter saying we need to “seize the summer” while preparing for a possible resurgence.

It comes as the Government announced new restrictions in response to the continued high level of cases of the virus and the threat of the new Omicron variant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin listed the new restrictions on the hospitality and entertainment sectors in a televised address where he told the country he shares “the disappointment and frustration that this will cause”.

Mr Martin said it is “not about going back to the days of lockdowns” but about adjusting the guidelines to the current threat from the virus.

The Government has accepted recommendations made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which will be in place from next Tuesday, December 7th until January 9th.

Under the new measures nightclubs will closed and there will be tighter measures adopted again in bars, restaurants and hotels.

Tables will be limited to six individuals and no multiple bookings will be allowed though closing time remains at midnight.

There is to be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at indoor entertainment and sporting events.

Covid passes will be required for gyms, leisure centres, and hotel bars and restaurants.

Mr Martin confirmed the Government has adopted Nphet’s advice on household visits and limiting them to three other households, while acknowledging the need for flexibility.

Mr Varadkar said this will be advice and it won’t be enforced by gardaí. The Government is not telling people what they can and can’t do in their own homes, he said.

The current rules for weddings remain unchanged.

At a press conference on Friday evening it was put to Mr Martin that he had previously said that once a sector was opened it would not close again and the new measures amounted to an admission of failure.

He replied: “Not at all. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment… the threats with the virus change and I think the vast bulk of society is open and remains open.”

Strong seasonal component

Mr Varadkar conceded that the pandemic could still be around next winter.

He said some experts have suggested the pandemic could last five years adding: “I certainly hope that’s not the case.”

Mr Varadkar said it is clear there is a strong seasonal component and that means two things have to be done.

Firstly he said “we need to seize the summer”.

“The last two summers we had the toughest restrictions in Europe… I’m determined that will not be the case next summer. We should open safely if we can”.

Secondly, he said: “We also need to prepare for next winter while dealing with this winter because there will be new variants”.

That includes building up the capacity of our health service and in the test, trace and isolate system, which he said the Government has been doing.

Mr Varadkar did say that scientists believe they can tweak vaccines for new variants within three months and there will new anti-viral tablets available next year and “that will help too”.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said one thing that gives him confidence is the booster vaccine campaign and indications that the jabs will still provide protection from the Omicron variant.

The Government announced a series of expanded financial supports for the hospitality and entertainment sectors and workers who may lose their jobs.

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) will be temporarily reopened to new entrants in order to cater for people who lose their jobs as a result of the restrictions. Further details are to be announced in the coming days.

There is to be an extra €25 million to support the live entertainment sector.

Mr Varadkar said that the Covid Response Support Scheme (CRSS) will be reformed to help more businesses.

Up until now it was only paid to businesses that had to close or saw a 75 per cent reduction in turnover. It will now apply to businesses like restaurants, pubs, theatres and nightclubs who are impacted by the restrictions though there will be terms and conditions involved. Minister Paschal Donohoe is looking at raising the weekly €5,000 cap.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) – the rates of which were cut this week – will stay at the new reduced rates.

Mr Varadkar said this is because the majority of businesses and jobs supported by the EWSS are not in sectors affected by the new restrictions.

He said the Government want to make sure EWSS is targeted at those that need it the most.

There will be a €62.3 million targeted commercial rates waiver for the first three months of 2022 for businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sector that are impacted by the restrictions.

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Nphet proposes cap on households mixing over Christmas period

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.

Nphet met on Thursday to consider advice for the Government on the latest pandemic situation, at a time when Covid-19 case numbers have stabilised at a high level and further information on the Omicron variant is being awaited.

It last night sent a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly which recommends a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and limits on households mixing.

The contents of the letter are expected to be discussed by Ministers and senior officials at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting on Friday.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the Government would move “as quickly as it can” to examine the latest recommendations from Nphet and to decide if further restrictions will be introduced. She said the Cabinet would need to be given time to “look at this advice and take it on board”.

During an interview on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said the Government had to ensure it was clear about about what it would do in terms of restrictions and why before anything was announced.

“Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this…I hope people would agree that we haven’t left people wanting,” she said. “We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won’t be any different.”

Tests for travellers

Separately, the Government has notified airlines that the introduction of a system of PCR and antigen testing for passengers arriving into Ireland has been delayed by 48 hours.





Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU


545


117

The measure was due to come into force on Friday, but Aer Lingus said airlines had been informed on Thursday night that the regulations would now begin on Sunday. All arrivals into the State – whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result from then onwards.

Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test.

No self-administered tests will be accepted under rules approved by Cabinet. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours before arrival. Persons arriving into the State from overseas who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 will be required also to have a certified negative test.

Hospitality sector meeting

Meanwhile, Government members are due to meet representatives of the hospitality industry on Friday. Ministers have said there will be supports for the sector if new pandemic measures will impact on their ability to trade.

Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that people had been asked to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.

“I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it’s not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic,” she said.

The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Government was flip flopping or that there was confusion behind the scenes, saying the State is in a “fluid situation” because of the nature of Covid-19.

“What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself. That wasn’t a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here,” she said.

‘Random and arbitrary’

Earlier, Maynooth University professor of immunology Paul Moynagh said the latest restrictions reportedly proposed by Nphet could lead to some benefits but seem ed “random and arbitrary”.

He told Newstalk Breakfast that “big mistakes” have been made with regard to messaging to the public.

“Back in September contact tracing was stood down the reason being that children were missing too much school. But we had the option of keeping contact tracing and using antigen testing. And there has been a resistance over the last year from Nphet in terms of using antigen testing,” he said.

“We saw over the last number of days the reluctance of Nphet again to impress advice from experts in the area of ventilation and air filtration. There seems to be this reluctance to accept scientific advice from outside.”

Prof Moynagh said there was a need to look at this reluctance and “learn from our mistakes”.

“Whereas at the moment it seems that mistakes are made and that narrative is defended. And again we end up now with new restrictions that I am not convinced are going to be very impactful,” he said.

“We know they are going to be highly impactful in terms of the sectors for example. I am not convinced by the strategy that is being used at the moment.”


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