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Munster’s late consolation try reaps losing bonus point

Guinness PRO14 Championship:
Ulster 15, Munster 10
TRAILING 15-3 at the break, Munster needed an early second half score in tonight’s Guinness PRO14 clash with Ulster in the Kingspan Stadium. Van Graan’s side enjoyed some good periods in that first 40 minutes but a blistering start from the home side made it difficult for Munster to impose themselves on the game. Ulster sparkled from the kick-off and they were 5-0 up when full-back Jacob Stockdale tore a hole in the visitors’ defence to set up right winger Matt Faddes for a well-taken try. John Cooney’s conversion attempt went just wide of the left hand post. Munster’s reply came from a penalty by Ben Healy and from there to the end of the opening half, it was Ulster that looked more confident.
On 16 minutes the lead increased to 12-3. Some excellent approach work from the home pack brought play deep into Munster territory, Munster defended stoutly but Billy Burns showed his class, planting a deftly judged cross kick into the hands of left wing Ethan McIlroy who dived over unopposed and Cooney this time found the target with ease. Before the break the Ulster scrum half added a penalty to give his side a 12-point lead at the short whistle. It was to be the home side’s last score.
Munster were getting a better return as the second half got underway and they were having decent success at the breakdown. Unfortunately, two promising attacks were spoiled by turnovers by Ulster and the Munster selectors will not be happy with Rory Scannell putting two kicks direct into touch and and Ben Healy’s kick for field position also resulting in a lineout from where the ball left the boot. Ulster put fierce pressure on the Munster line going into the last quarter and captain Billy Holland (pictured) sacrificed for the sake of team, shown yellow as the home side came within inches of the line.
Van Graan rang the changes and the introduction of Rhys Marshall, Dave Kilcoyne and Roman Salanoa re-energised the front-row. ‘Killer’ was superb, his power and enthusiasm infectious as Munster completely dominated the rest of the game. They were camped in the opposition 22 for long periods, Healy was wide with a penalty chance but eventually they breached the stubborn home defence on 84 minutes when Darren Sweetnam got over for the losing bonus point try, converted by Jack Crowley.
While Munster lost their winning record, their coaches will be pleased with the performance of what was in some ways a second string line-up. Only full-back Shane Daly survived from the side that sensationally beat Clermont in France and Munster must be credited with the decision to ‘give youth a fling’. Every player on the team sheet got a run and, in defeat, the young players will have learned a hard lesson.
In the other PRO14 game tonight, there was a shock result in the RDS when Connacht had a rare victory over Leinster. The Westerners come to Thomond Park next week-end to take on Munster.
Ulster: Jacob Stockdale, Matt Faddes, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney; Eric O’Sullivan, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Kieran Treadwell, Sam Carter (CAPT), Matty Rea, David McCann, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Callum Reid, Tom O’Toole, David O’Connor, Marcell Coetzee, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
Munster: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Liam Coombes; Ben Healy, Craig Casey; Liam O’Connor, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (c); Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Dave Kilcoyne, Roman Salanoa, Thomas Ahern, Tommy O’Donnell, Nick McCarthy, Jack Crowley, Darren Sweetnam.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU, 47th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace, Rob O’Sullivan (both IRFU)
TMO: Joy Neville (IRFU)

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