Four yellow cards, two tries, one good old-fashioned schmozzle and in the end it was four points for Connacht.

With three of the four Christmas interpros having fallen victim to Covid-19 postponements, Connacht and Munster served up a thrilling, if tetchy, affair in front of 3,064 at the Sportsground.

Scrappy for large parts, it still had enough blood and guts to get the New Year off to an entertaining start.

A converted Bundee Aki try midway through the second half was the difference in the end as the home side drew level on 20 points with their opponents in the United Rugby Championship table.

Having recorded wins on their previous three visits to Galway, Johann van Graan's side had to be content with a losing bonus point ahead of next week’s home game with Ulster.

Between them the teams conceded 31 penalties and two free kicks, there were lineout malfunctions and the odd knock on, but even the stop-start nature couldn’t take much away from the fare on offer to a rugby-starved audience.

The opening was cagey with neither side getting to grips with the wind, which was having that peculiar Sportsground effect on the flight of the ball.

Still Connacht, as is their wont, mixed it up.

Strong running off the shoulder by Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane was earning yards and when Conor Oliver and Kieran Marmion sold dummies, it led to the opening score of the game.

Damian de Allende went off his feet and Jack Carty landed the penalty into a decent gale in the 15th minute.

But almost straight from the start Munster were level when Ben Healy kicked over a three-pointer when Dillane was adjudged to have played a man off the ball.

Andy Friend's side were pretty without penetrating and the Munster defence had their measure on the couple of occasions they got deep into the danger zone.

Then came the first try. Mack Hansen, the man who Connacht fans know can do anything, then showed he could also switch off.

Healy booted the ball almost the length of the pitch and Hansen retreated to clear, however, the Munster out-half had made up the ground and was able to block the Aussie’s poor kick.

Shane Daly muscled John Porch off the loose ball and Andrew Conway followed up instinctively to dot down in the corner and Munster led 8-3 in the 23rd minute.

They really should have extended that advantage before half-time when they eschewed a gimme penalty under the posts multiple times.

In the middle of conceding half a dozen penalties Oisín Dowling was sin-binned with Munster opting against a scrum, seemingly intent on executing a training ground tap penalty move.

It failed miserably and the loudest cheer greeted referee Chris Busby awarding a defensive penalty to the hosts, who lost Carty to a blood injury in the chaos.

What can only be described as a schmozzle broke out as both teams raced to the dressing room.

There was a small amount of shouldering, but then a Munster player was pushed to the ground and the bodies piled in.

Having repeatedly warned the sides in the opening half, Busby diplomatically gave Healy and late Connacht call-up Shane Delahunt 10 minutes extra to think about what they had done before getting the second half under way.

That left it 14 v 13 for the opening phase of the half with Conor Fitzgerald, who had permanently replaced Carty, missing a penalty.

Munster put the squeeze on, De Allende carried hard, sucking in defenders close to the Connacht line but Craig Casey, one of seven changes made to the team that beat Castres, saw his long pass picked off by the lively Marmion.

For a moment it looked like the Ireland scrum-half would go coast to coast before being hunted down by Mike Haley.

It was end to end and Healy returned to the action only to push a penalty wide.

Farrell then went high on replacement Tom Farrell with the officials taking an age to decide that the head-on-head collision was worthy of just a yellow, the mitigation that Farrell had changed direction.

However, Connacht managed to control the lineout and mauled to the line with Aki the man touching down before Fitzgerald landed the sideline conversion to give the home side the lead at the hour mark.

Man of the match Cian Prendergast made some more hard yards before De Allende conceded another penalty but that came to nothing when Connacht lost possession at the breakdown.

The benches emptied, Healy tried a 60-yard drop goal, Diarmuid Barron missed his lineout throw and the game ebbed and flowed like a game of darts at Alexandra Palace.

But Munster couldn't mange to break out and Connacht held out to avenge the early-season loss at Thomond Park.

Connacht: Tiernan O'Halloran; John Porch, Sammy Arnold, Bundee Aki, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Shane Delahunt, Finlay Bealham; Ultan Dillane, Oisín Dowling; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.

Replacements: Jonny Muphy, Tietie Tuimauga, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Eoghan Masterson, Abraham Papali'i, Matthew Devine, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Jack O'Donoghue (capt), Alex Kendellen, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Thomas Ahern, Jack Daly, Neil Cronin, Jack Crowley, Rory Scannell.

Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)