Pro14: Munster claim 27-14 win over Connacht in feisty inter-provincial encounter
|Pro14: Munster v Connacht|
|Munster (17) 27|
|Tries: Beirne, Haley, Hanrahan Cons: Bleyendaal 3 Pens: Bleyendaal 2|
|Connacht (7) 14|
|Tries: Bealham, McKeon Cons: Dean 2|
Munster fought off a dogged Connacht to claim a hard-fought victory in a feisty inter-provincial derby at Thomond Park.
Tadhg Beirne and Mike Haley scored first half tries after Finlay Bealham dotted down to put Connacht ahead.
Eoin McKeon's late score looked to have set up a tense finish but replacement JJ Hanrahan darted over four minutes later to seal the win.
However Glasgow's win over Edinburgh meant Munster still had to settle for a second place finish in Conference A.
Munster will host Benetton in the quarter-final at Thomond Park next Saturday.
Connacht, having already secured third place in Conference A, will take on Ulster in Belfast.
Murray a late withdrawal from Munster side
The hosts were dealt a blow before kick off with news that scrum-half Conor Murray had hurt his neck during the warm-up, with Neil Cronin coming in to replace the British and Irish Lion in the starting side.
The British and Irish Lions star sustained the injury when backing into a team-mate and scrum coach Jerry Flannery said afterwards that the Munster management "didn't want to take any risks" with the scrum-half's fitness.
A neck injury sustained in Ireland's series win in Australia last June kept Murray out of action for the early part of this season before he returned to action in late November.
After struggling to find territory early on, Connacht surged into Munster's 22 midway through the first half with Kieran Marmion orchestrating the attack from scrum-half.
Bealham charged over from close range before Munster appeared to have found a near instant response when Andrew Conway intercepted Tiernan O'Halloran's pass and jogged over the line, only for Stephen Fitzgerald to dislodge the ball from the Ireland international's hands before he had dotted down.
However the hosts did soon have their try through Beirne, who ran a strong line before stepping inside wing Niyi Adeolokun to finish.
Conway went some way to atoning for his earlier error when he helped to increase Munster's lead, linking up with Peter O'Mahony to send Haley scampering between the posts.
For 30 second-half minutes Tyler Bleyendaal's penalty was the only score as the game was broken up by several confrontations between the sides.
Replacement prop Jeremy Loughman was shown a yellow card for an infringement at the scrum and Connacht wasted little time in making the most of their numerical advantage as McKeon bundled over to make it a one score game.
However Hanranhan's try five minutes from time allowed the hosts to see out the last few minutes with relative ease as attentions now turn to the Pro14 knockout stages.
Munster: Haley; Conway, Farrell, Goggin, Nash; Bleyendaal, Cronin; Kilcoyne, N Scannell, Archer, Kleyn, Beirne; O'Mahony (capt), Cloete, Stander.
Replacements: Marshall, Loughman, Ryan, Holland, Botha, Casey, Hanrahan, Arnold.
Sin-bin: Loughman (67)
Connacht: O'Halloran; Adeolokun, Aki, Daly, Fitzgerald; Dean, Marmion; Burke, McCartney, Bealham, Maksymiw, Cannon, McKeon, Butler (capt), Copeland.
Replacements: Delahunt, McCabe, Carey, Masterson, Boyle, Blade, Griffin, Leader.