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Connacht’s golden opportunity to stop the rot against injury-hit Munster

By JOHN FALLON

TWO teams who started the season in flying form will bid to start 2024 on a positive note as Connacht, stuck on a five-match losing run, take on a Munster side who have only won one of their last five games.

The URC campaign will hit the halfway point when they go into battle at the Sportsground on New Year’s Day (3pm) with both Munster and Connacht hoping for a boost before both try to rescue precarious Champions Cup positions after a down week.

Connacht’s weekend loss away to an Ulster side they defeated in the URC quarter-finals last season has seen them slip down to bottom half of the table after winning their opening three matches.

The 20-19 loss away to Ulster two nights before Christmas has extended their losing run to five games in all competitions and head coach Pete Wilkins said their indiscipline at the start of the second half as the turning point of the game in Belfast.

“That point after half time, knowing it’s tight, we concede three penalties, three that gets them from deep in their half to towards our end of the field. That was incredibly important,” said Wilkins.

“You’re always going to get those blocks of momentum, but to go three-in-a-row, that was crucial.

“Their game wasn’t perfect, our game wasn’t perfect, but they landed more than us and credit to them for that.”

That’s three URC losses in a row with two Champions Cup defeats in this segment but Wilkins said it’s in their own hands to respond.

“We’ve had a couple of tough ones like that in the last month, but very proud of the effort.

“It’s fine margins, when you look at the build-up to this game, Connacht and Ulster were incredibly even in terms of what they’ve produced this season on average.

Pictured: Connacht’s Mark Hansen taking on Munster’s Stephen Archer and Jack O’Donoghue in last season’s URC clash at the Sportsground. The teams renew rivalry in Galway on New Year’s Day.

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