Match Report: Munster Rugby 32-28 Ulster Rugby

Chris Henry

Chris Henry returned for Ulster in their 32-28 defeat to Munster

Ulster fell to another away defeat in the Guinness PRO12, this time losing 32-28 at the hands of interprovincial rivals Munster in an exhilarating game at Thomond Park on Friday night.

Both sides picked up try bonus points, and Ulster got a losing bonus point for their efforts too, as the sides shared nine tries between them, while Ian Keatley outscored opposite number Paddy Jackson from the kicking tee.

t was a game that fluctuated back and forth and there was drama right until the end of the game but Munster showed enough to hold on and claim the victory they probably just deserved.

Ulster got off the perfect start after just four minutes when Darren Cave showed great strength to rip the ball from Francis Saili’s grasp and then feed Craig Gilroy who ran the length of the pitch for the opening score.

The hosts were dictating play, but Ulster’s early defence was holding strong against their opponents’ best efforts.

But a great break from the back of a ruck by Tomas O’Leary allowed Munster to use the hands to send Andrew Conway over in the corner just before the halfway point of the first half to give them the lead.

The lead lasted all of a minute as Ulster went straight back up the field, and Jackson was on hand to restore Ulster’s lead when the home side were caught offside.

Ulster then extended their lead five minutes later when Jackson threw a fantastic flat pass to Nick Williams to set the number eight through and it was a simple case of working the ball wide from there for Gilroy to notch his second in the corner.

But the lead was quickly evaporated as Munster ran in two quick tries – first from Robin Copeland who was set over by a brilliant hold up pass from Simon Zebo and then from Gerhard van den Heever who simply had to outpace opposite number Andrew Trimble.

But it would be Ulster who would finish off the half of exhilarating scoring with a final try of their own as a simple catch-and-drive maul barrelled its way over in the 39th minute with Nick Williams the one to actually score.

Jackson’s kick hit the uprights, his third conversion miss of the half into the wind, meaning Ulster trailed 19-18 at the break.

It took Neil Doak’s men just five minutes of the second half to go back in the lead courtesy of a drop goal from Jackson following a lengthy attack in the Munster half, but a Keatley penalty quickly erased that lead.

Ulster were dominating territory, but three superb steals from Munster captain CJ Stander in dangerous areas ensured that they did not fall behind on the scoreboard once more.

Instead, they extended their lead and scored their fourth try through centre Denis Hurley, who collected Andrew Conway’s knock down from a kick to score the unconverted try on the hour mark.

And six minutes later Munster had their fifth try through Simon Zebo, who managed to cross in the corner for the try after an initial Duncan Casey surge.

The game looked like it was getting beyond Ulster, but they battled back with a carbon copy of Munster’s try for their own bonus point – Craig Gilroy made the surge through the defence and Dan Tuohy was lurking on the wing to cross.

Ulster sought desperately for the try that would give them the win, and they got two chances at it after man of the match Tomas O’Leary kicked the ball dead with time still left, but ultimately they couldn’t get the score.

 

The scorers

For Munster

Tries: Conway, Copeland, van den Heever, Hurley, Zebo

Cons: Keatley (2)

Pen: Keatley

For Ulster

Tries: Gilroy (2), Williams, Tuohy

Con: Jackson

Pen: Jackson

DG: Jackson

 

MUNSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Andrew Conway, Gerhard van den Heever, Francis Saili, Denis Hurley (Rory Scannell 69), Simon Zebo, Ian Keatley, Tomás O’Leary; (1-8) James Cronin (John Ryan 66), Mike Sherry (Duncan Casey 55), BJ Botha, Dave Foley (Donnacha Ryan 50), Mark Chisholm, CJ Stander, Jack O’Donoghue (Jordan Coghlan 69), Robin Copeland.

Subs not used: Mario Sagario, Duncan Williams, Ronan O’Mahony.

 

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Peter Nelson, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Andrew Trimble (Sammy Arnold 40), Paddy Jackson, Paul Marshall; (1-8) Andrew Warwick (Callum Black 50), Rob Herring (John Andrew 67), Wiehahn Herbst (Ricky Lutton 67), Lewis Stevenson, Franco van der Merwe (Dan Tuohy 62), Roger Wilson, Sean Reidy (Chris Henry 52), Nick Williams.

Subs not used: Paul Rowley, Ian Humphreys.

 

Man of the Match: Tomás O’Leary (Munster)

Attendance: 7,200

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)