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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 19:25 GMT
Munster 36-17 Connacht
Paul O'Connell
Munster (14) 36
Tries: Leamy, O'Connell, Horgan, Pucciariello
Cons: Manning, O'Gara
Pens: Manning 4
Connacht (7) 17
Tries: Merrigan, Warwick
Cons: Warwick 2
Pens: Warwick
Munster returned to the top of the Celtic League after a bonus point win over Connacht in Tuesday night's Irish derby clash at Thomond Park.

Denis Leamy's early try helped Munster into a 14-7 half-time lead with Joe Merrigan going over for Connacht.

Paul Warwick made it all-square when he converted his own try before Connacht flanker Mike Swift was sin-binned.

Late tries from Anthony Horgan and Federico Pucciariello secured the bonus point to put Munster five points clear.

Munster pressed from the start and their early dominance was rewarded when Leamy went over at the corner to complete a good passing move on nine minutes.

A Manning penalty five minutes later made it 8-0 and at this stage Munster looked like inflicting a heavy defeat on their neighbours.

But Merrigan drove over for a converted try from a line-out in Connacht's first serious attack in the 21st minute to change the complexion of the game.

Manning added two further penalties to put Munster seven points ahead at the break but Connacht were proving to be no pushovers.

The underdogs drew level on 47 minutes when a clever dummy allowed Warwick to nip in for try which the fly-half converted.

But Irish lock O'Connoll, making his return from a thumb injury, restored Munster's lead six minutes later by stealing the ball at a Connacht line-out before crashing over for a converted touchdown.

Warwick reduced the gap to four points but Connacht suffered a blow when flanker Swift was sin-binned for a high tackle on 57 minutes.

Manning kicked over the resulting penalty before Munster, bolstered by the introduction of Irish stars Peter Stringer, Ronan O'Gara and Anthony Foley, pulled clear.

O'Gara converted Horgan's easy 73rd minute try and Pucciariello secured the bonus point with an injury-time touchdown.

Munster : S Payne, A Pitout, B Murphy, G Connolly, A Horgan, J Manning, T O'Leary, F Pucciarello, D Fogarty, J Hayes, T Hogan, P O'Connell (capt), D O'Callaghan, D Leamy, S Keogh.
Replacements: M Horan, J Flannery, M O'Driscoll, A Foley, P Stringer, R O'Gara, T Halstead.

Connacht : D Slemen, M Mostyn, A Mailei, G Williams, C McPhillips, P Warwick, T Tierney, D McFarland, J Merrigan, A Clarke, D Gannon, A Farley (capt), M Swift, B O'Connor, J Muldoon.
Replacements: J Fogarty, R Hogan, S Knoop, M Lacey, C Keane, J Hearty, T Robinson.

Referee: A Rolland (IRFU)



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