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Sending-off a factor as Munster lose second ‘inter-pro’ in a row

Guinness PRO14:
Ulster 24, Munster 17
MUNSTER, who led 17-0 at halftime, paid the price for poor discipline and missed chances when they conceded 24 points without reply to home side Ulster in the Kingspan Stadium tonight. There will be a lot to muse over for the Munster backroom staff over the coming days with Connacht visiting Thomond Park next Saturday.
A Munster win appeared likely at the break and a try bonus was also in sight as the second half got underway but it was Ulster who showed new life. John Cooney had a try disallowed on 50 minutes and Munster lost Fineen Wycherley to a yellow card five minutes later. That appeared to unsettle the visitors and two minutes later the lack of numbers allowed Darren Cave to carve open the Munster defence for a well-taken try, converted by Cooney to reduce the lead to 7-17.
Ulster kept up the pressure from the restart and Munster suffered a killing blow on 58 minutes when centre Sammy Arnold was shown red for a ‘dangerous high tackle.’
Down to 13 men Munster were completely rattled and Craig Gilroy snatched a loose ball to spin over the line for his side’s second try in four minutes that left just five points between the sides at 12-17. Cooney missed the conversion but when Gilroy scored his second try with seven minutes to go, the scrum-half split the posts with the conversion to put his side 19-17 ahead with six minutes remaining. Munster butchered a chance to snatch a victory from the restart. They were awarded a put-in inside the Ulster ten metre line but opted to play on and Wooton’s kick through went into dead ball territory.
Ulster won possession from the drop out and after the ball went through a number of hands, left wing Rob Lyttle left the Munster defence grasping at shadows as he out-paced the cover for a brilliant fourth try that gave the home side a bonus point victory. Only consolation for Johaan Graan’s side was a missed conversion by John Cooney which gifted the visitors a losing bonus point.
A dominant pack, fiercely competitive at the breakdown, mauls and rucks, Munster dominated the opening half and led 17-0 at the short whistle. JJ Hanrahan had a shaky start, missing two conversions and failing to find touch from a penalty but it was the set-piece that provided the platform for the three first half tries.
Calvin Nash was held up short on 13 minutes but a penalty/lineout by Munster set up the maul and Niall Scannell got over for the touchdown. With the visiting front-row destroying their Ulster counterparts, all the play was in the home territory and on 24 minutes it was 10-0 to Munster, Scannell again benfitting from another might maul by the red pack.
Darren O’Shea robbed an Ulster linout a few metres from the Munster line on 28 minutes, the visitors drove forward and with the pack again proving unstoppable, referee Sean Gallagher awarded a penalty try the visiting side. Ulster enjoyed a late spell but turned down a three point chance by going for the corner only to be driven into touch by another super counter-drive by Munster close to their own line. Half time, Ulster 0, Munster 17.
That was as good as it got for Munster in this thrilling ‘inter-provincial clash’. They not alone failed to add to their first half tally but they rarely got in sight of the opposition line after totally dominating the set-pieces, mauls and rucks of that one-sided opening half. That is two defeats in succession now for Munster and looking at the Connacht display today against Leinster, there will have to be a major improvement over the full 80 minutes if they are to avoid a provincial whitewash next week-end.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland (c); Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Rory Loughman, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Bill Johnston, Ronan O’Mahony.
Ulster: Charles Piutau; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Kyle McCall, Rob Herring (captain), Rodney Ah You, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel;
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Callum Black, Wiehahn Herbst, Robbie Diack, Matthew Rea, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Andrew Trimble.
Referee, Sean Gallagher, IRFU.

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