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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 17 July, 2018
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Scannell's dramatic drop goal seals superb win for Munster in Belfast

Ulster had their own late chance to steal it with a drop-goal at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster 14

Munster 15

Murray Kinsella reports from Kingspan Stadium

WHAT ABOUT THAT for an end game? The winning of it was a moment of brilliant individual skill from Rory Scannell as he gathered the ball on the wrong side of his body, transferred it to his left, and found the composure to slot a drop goal.

Rory Scannell scores a drop goal Scannell after hitting the match-winning drop-goal. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

That the decisive score was founded on some brilliant ball-carrying from Munster’s forwards was fitting.

Jack O’Donoghue surged after Duncan Williams’ snipe, Peter O’Mahony powered forward as he went the full 80, then Dave Kilcoyne hammered at Ulster yet again .

Too early, the Munster fans thought as Scannell dropped back, but the Cork man showed his impressive steel to steal the win for the southern province.

Still there was time for Ulster to thrust back at Munster, as they built a drop-goal chance for Paddy Jackson to grab the result. The Ireland international struck the ball well but, as for Exeter’s Gareth Steenson at this venue last weekend, his effort crept just wide to the right.

One last chance. Tommy Bowe knocked-on into touch and Munster sealed the deal. Another win to honour their fallen brother, Anthony Foley.

This one was far more imperfect than the hammering of Glasgow in Thomond Park last time out, but ‘Axel’ would have enjoyed the grit Munster showed to keep turning up even after they made countless mistakes in the first half.

Ulster, in contrast, will be angry with their own performance, one that was similarly error-strewn. They will see this defeat as a major missed opportunity.

Munster should have had a lot more than man of the match Scannell’s try to show at the half-time break, when they trailed 14-5, having enjoyed 75% of the territory and 69% of the possession in the opening 40 minutes.

Their error count was far too high, however, with simple spilled ball, illegal ruck entry and a pair of lineout mishaps preventing them from benefiting from repeated promising spells in the Ulster 22.

The absence of Tyler Bleyendaal at out-half stood out, as Munster failed to build real scoring opportunities on the back of some excellent carrying by the likes of Kilcoyne, O’Donoghue, Billy Holland, and Donnacha Ryan.

Ulster’s defence lapped up the narrow attack for the large part of the half, with Ruan Pienaar, Sean Reidy, Luke Marshall and Bowe prominent in contact.

Ulster had taken an early lead thanks to the ever-impressive Charles Piutau’s try. Jackson sparked the passage with a deft chip over Munster’s rush defence for Darren Cave to gather, then the Ulster out-half launched a diagonal bomb several phases later.

Charles Piutau celebrates his side's first try with Craig Gilroy Charles Piutau scored Ulster's opening try. Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Darren Sweetnam was under it wide on Munster’s right wing, but fullback Andrew Conway advanced into the aerial contest as Ulster’s Craig Gilroy rose, tapping the ball inside for Piutau to run the 20 metres to the tryline untouched.

Jackson converted before the Munster onslaught in Ulster’s half began in earnest. There was a missed drop-goal effort from Ian Keatley as early as the 10th minute, while the Munster out-half badly scuffed a penalty from the tee soon after.

Munster’s wastefulness was a huge frustration for the travelling support, who had their heads in their hands in the 36th minute after Ulster replacement Rob Lyttle – on for the injured Cave – gathered a loose ball 15 metres out from the Munster tryline with no immediate danger apparent.

However, his burst of acceleration saw O’Donnell miss the first-up tackle before Kilcoyne and Keatley clashed heads following up, both of them slipping off to allow Lyttle to dot down, with Jackson converting.

In the final minute of the half, Munster finally found the formula they’d been searching for, however. An inside pass from Holland put Ronan O’Mahony into space, with Kilcoyne, Holland and Ryan following up with meaty carries towards the Ulster tryline.

Simple, clinical catch-and-pass from Conway and Sweetnam put centre Scannell over in the right corner. Although Keatley couldn’t convert, it was a timely fillup for Munster.

Rory Scannell scores a try Inside centre Rory Scannell crossed for Munster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Luke Marshall went off his feet in the first minute of the second half as he jackaled, but again Keatley couldn’t find the target with his penalty, this time the ball connecting with the left post and bouncing clear.

Another ruck entry from the side soon after left Munster empty-handed from their latest visit to the Ulster 22, as Piutau and Bowe began to show signs of sparking Ulster’s attack.

But the northern province made errors too, with Jackson and Bowe leaving ball down on a pair of second-half backline moves and Munster showed their grit to stay in the fight.

They very nearly broke away from deep in their own 22 with 53 minutes played, defending through almost 20 phases before Sweetnam scooped the ball from the back of a loose Ulster ruck and fed the impressive Jaco Taute.

The South African was hauled down from behind by Pienaar, however, and Marshall brilliantly dragged Sweetnam into touch after the Cork man collected Taute’s offload.

While they lost Conway to injury heading into the final quarter, Munster’s perseverance paid off with 15 minutes left as they built an ultra-direct score.

The maul fired down the right, from where Williams and O’Donoghue carried to spark a passage of one-out surges and pick-and-jams that ended with Taute muscling his way over from close range.

Jaco Taute scores a try South African midfielder Taute fights his way over for a try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Scannell took over kicking duties from Keatley to slot the conversion for 14-12, before Jackson had a malfunction from the tee to miss a straightforward chance to open up the lead for Ulster again, his penalty sailing wide with 10 minutes remaining.

That gave Munster a final sniff, and set us up for an unforgettable endgame.

Ulster scorers:

Tries: Charles Piutau, Rob Lyttle

Conversions: Paddy Jackson [2 from 2]

Penalties: Paddy Jackson [0 from 1]

Munster scorers:

Tries: Rory Scannell, Jaco Taute

Conversions: Ian Keatley [0 from 1], Rory Scannell [1 from 1]

Penalties: Ian Keatley [0 from 2]

Drop goal: Rory Scannell

ULSTER: Charles Piutau; Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave (Rob Lyttle ’9), Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall ’76); Callum Black (Kyle McCall ’58), Rob Herring (captain), Wiehahn Herbst (Andrew Warwick ’66); Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe; Robbie Diack (Conor Joyce ’71), Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson (Clive Ross ’29).

Replacements not used: John Andrew, Brett Herron.

MUNSTER: Andrew Conway (Alex Wootton ’61); Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley (Dan Goggin ’71), Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, James Ryan (Stephen Archer ’71); Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tommy O’Donnell (Robin Copeland ’60), Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements not used: Vincent O’Brien, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea, Abriel Griesel.

Referee: Nigel Owens [WRU].

Attendance: 18,196.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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