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Most of the pre-match talk at the Sportsground surrounded Bundee Aki's Ireland call-up and Simon Zebo's exile from Joe Schmidt's autumn squad, following his decision to move to France next year.

It was almost written in the stars that Zebo would score the opening try, combining with Rory Scannell who was also a notable absentee from 38-man Irish selection.

Schmidt's assistants, Andy Farrell, Richie Murphy and Greg Feek, were in attendance to watch a well-crafted 22nd-minute try from Tiernan O'Halloran - another player without a squad place for next month's Tests - close the gap, before Ian Keatley and Jack Carty swapped penalties for a 13-10 Munster lead at half-time.

Carty's second penalty of the night drew Connacht level, Munster then losing winger Andrew Conway to a 61st-minute red card for his elbow making contact with Carty's head after the latter's chip kick.

Replacement JJ Hanrahan managed to kick Munster back in front but it was poor attempted tackles from Hanrahan and Kevin O'Byrne that allowed Connacht centre Tom Farrell cut through for the game's decisive score.

Apart from Aki stripping the ball from his future Ireland team-mate CJ Stander's grasp, it was all Munster early on and they deservedly hit the front in the third minute.

Connacht got the shove on at a defensive scrum in their 22, but Scannell tidied up the loose ball with a brilliant run, offloading for Zebo to evade the clutches of O'Halloran and touch down.

Keatley converted and nudged over a penalty to put Munster in double figures, but Connacht, whose early attacking efforts were blighted by knock-ons, were rewarded early in the second quarter.

Carty slid a penalty wide from the right wing, before a slashing break from Darragh Leader ignited the hosts. Aki showed terrific hands to send man-of-the-match Jarrad Butler through a gap and his final pass put O'Halloran in behind the posts.

Carty's simple conversion was cancelled out by a Keatley penalty on the half hour mark, the Dubliner punishing his former Connacht team-mate John Muldoon for not releasing a tackled player.

Another peach of a pass from Aki saw full-back O'Halloran threaten from a kick chase, Munster conceding a five-metre scrum and then a 39th-minute penalty from which Carty closed the gap back to three points.

Connacht were level within 10 minutes of the restart, a Carty place-kick rewarding a power-packed scrum. As this Conference A clash grew even tighter, Conway went close to claiming a cross-field kick from Hanrahan, Keatley's replacement.

Munster had the territorial control with Hanrahan continually probing with the boot, one such dink proving too strong for Keith Earls past the try-line.

The momentum swung back in Connacht's favour when a leaping Conway saw red for taking out Carty near halfway, referee Nigel Owens consulting with TMO Brian MacNeice before making his decision.

Hanrahan looked a possible match winner, landing a crisply-struck 65th-minute penalty, but he was at fault, along with fellow replacement O'Byrne, when Farrell hared onto a pass and split open the Munster midfield for his try, converted by Craig Ronaldson.

Munster lacked the necessary composure to manufacture a late response. O'Byrne fumbled possession off a grounded maul and then a final error from Hanrahan, who mixed the good with the bad, confirmed Connacht as derby winners as they built on their Challenge Cup victories over Oyonnax and Worcester Warriors.
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