Connacht pulled off a worthy pre-season scalp when they overcame Munster at Thomond Park by 28-12 in their final pre-season warm-up fixture.
A strong rolling maul resulted in scrumhalf Kieran Marmion scoring two tries to help his cause of selection in Joe Schmidt's World Cup squad, and with Jack Carty converting from the touchline, Pat Lam's men led 14-5, Mike Sherry having crossed for Munster.
CJ Stander added to Munster's score before the break, but new signing Nepia Fox Matamua claimed the spoils from another solid maul to push Connacht into a 21-12 half-time lead.
Lam used the opportunity to give all replacements time in action, and although Bundee Aki was binned, Connacht's defence held firm. Instead of conceding to Anthony Foley's side, they added a penalty try, which Craig Ronaldson converted, for a solid and confidence-boosting victory.
Norrow loss for women
However in Galway defending women's interpro champions Munster did just enough to claim the opening spoilts against Connacht at the Sportsground on Saturday. Munster's 18th minute penalty and unconverted try on half-time was enough to steer them clear five points ahead at the finish, 8-3.
Munster, well aware of Connacht's ability to convert turnover ball into points last year, kept the hosts well clear of the Reds' danger zone, and it was Ireland outhalf Niamh Briggs who steered her side clear inside their own 40m. Connacht, by contrast, opted to keep the ball in hand, leaving themselves doubly vulnerable every time they made a mistake.
Disappointingly for Connacht, however, was the fact both camps made the majority of blunders inside Connacht territory. That said, while Munster looked the more comfortable with ball-in-hand, Connacht's defensive system appeared to be the stronger of the two. Former international Niamh Kavanagh (13 ), Munster midfield stalwart Nicola Scully (12 ) and the ever-dangerous Briggs (10 ) found few chinks in the armour.
Briggs drew first blood halfway through the first spell with a penalty 26m from the posts, and outhalf opposite Nicole Fowley replied 12 minutes later from the Munster 22m in from the righthand touch. The fixture’s solitary try came from a well-worked Munster counterattack just outside the Connacht 22m, a penalty clearance to within 10m of the Connacht line and an ensuing lineout maul which crossed eight metres in from the Clann Stand touch as ref Susan Carty blew for the break.
Connacht centre Mairead Coyne kept Scully and Kavanagh busy, a second-half injection from Sene Naoupu did similar, and prop Laura Feely combined well with hooker Ciara O Connor, but an overall inability to retain possession for more than three or four phases at a time, and continuing lineout woes, continued to hamper Western wishes for a heavyweight scalp.
Munster proved the more clinical with ball-in-hand and they now meet Ulster this weekend while Connacht head east to Donnybrook to meet Leinster 5pm on Saturday evening.