Pro 14: Munster v Connacht Preview

Munster will be looking to atone for last Monday's dismal second-half showing when they take on Connacht on Saturday the 6th of January.

After blowing a 17-0 lead to eventually go down at Ulster on Monday evening, Munster’s sights will be firmly set on delivering a knockout performance and outdoing a courageous Connacht side this Saturday. The hosts, who are practically assured of finishing the league stage as Conference A runners-up and thus hosting a playoff game, shouldn’t take the prospect of facing their western-based brothers lightly and will come out all guns blazing at Thomond Park.

Munster v Connacht |  Saturday 6 January | Thomond Park | 21:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Munter 2/13 | Draw 25/1 | Connacht 17/4

Munster
At around the 58th-minute mark of Munster’s eventual defeat at the Kingspan, one would have thought them home and dry with their 17-point buffer. An ensuing Sam Arnold red card, however, allowed Ulster to claw their way back and claim an unlikely bonus-point win. Arnold’s card came at the worst possible time for The Red Army, who were already down to 14-men after a sin-binning, and their loss in personnel would eventually tell in the end.

It is perhaps a measure of the competitiveness between the Irish provinces this year that, but a fortnight ago, Connacht completely blew the self-same Ulster out of the water in an eventual 44-16 home win. Indeed, Connacht – Munster’s opponents this week – are themselves reeling after an 18-21 loss to Leinster at the RDS on Monday; further evidence that, despite adopting various log-positions, Irish derbies are always incredibly close… and incredibly difficult to call. But then, I suppose that is the very reason we watch this great game.

Munster’s physicality played a big part in their earning that early advantage over Ulster, and one would think this to be an area they would look to dominate this weekend. Arnold’s likely suspension may mean Johann van Graan will have to rejig his midfield, but, with the depth of talent at his disposal, this shouldn’t be too difficult a task for the Saffa to overcome.

Connacht
Despite a valiant effort at an ever-treacherous RDS Arena, Connacht just couldn’t do enough to affect an upset and claim the win over Leinster. Leading 13-11 at the interval, the away side’s tenacious spirit was eventually slain by Leo Cullen’s side’s superior performance, and Connacht would ultimately have to settle for a losing bonus-point.

If Kieran Keane’s men can match, or even repel their uber-physical opponents this week, the likes of Bundee Aki and Tiernan O'Halloran may be able to spark something amongst the backs. Connacht proved in their big win over Ulster that they can play some good footy, and Conference A’s fifth-placed side may just get back to winning ways this week. Theirs is a fearless squad full of character; and these truly are essential ingredients required when paying a visit to Limerick.

Verdict: Connacht 17/4
I’m banking on an unlikely occurrence here.  Munster’s inconsistency has proved a thorn in their side all season long, and Connacht’s sheer bloody-mindedness may mean they condemn van Graan’s boys to a second-consecutive loss of the new calendar year.

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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