James Crombie/INPHO O'Callaghan celebrates at the final whistle.
# Stand up and fight
'Robbed win' over Ulster will hold Munster in good stead insists O'Callaghan
Axel Foley’s side moved to the top of the Pro12 but were fortunate to escape with the points last night.

IT MAY NOT have been the most convincing performance but Donncha O’Callaghan believes Munster’s narrow win over Ulster on Friday night was exactly what his side needed ahead of the return of the European Champions Cup next week.

Munster moved to the summit of the Guinness Pro12 with the 21-20 victory in the inter-provincial clash at Thomond Park.

O’Callaghan admits the home side were fortunate to come away with the points but insists it was an ideal work-out ahead of Clermont’s visit to Limerick.

“We’re just delighted to get a win really,” the Munster captain said. “It was tough opposition and a step-up from what we normally expect in the Pro12 but it will hold us in good stead heading into the next week.

“Clermont will be up another level again but the guys are sore in there and that’s what you want and the sort of game you need ahead of an European weekend.

Munster have now won seven consecutive games in both domestic and European competition but were caught cold by a purposeful Ulster start last night. The visitors enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges and manufactured a healthy 12 point advantage inside the opening quarter.

While O’Callaghan admits it was a disappointing start from the hosts, it serves as a lesson and accentutates something they need to improve on in the week ahead.

“It was poor from us, they hit their straps and it’s definitely something we’ll have a look at because it was a slow start,” the second-row said. “I thought we were going to come out of the blocks firing but we didn’t and that’s disappointing from us because at home in Thomond you want to get off to a fast start but to be fair they put us under pressure.”

Tries either side of half-time from Robin Copeland and Duncan Williams, as well as three Ian Keatley penalties, turned the game on its head and was enough despite a late rally from Ulster.

After an attritional battle, Ulster came within a whisker of snatching a last-gasp win but Ian Humphries was unable to add the extras after Nick Williams crossed the line in the final few minutes.

“You hate celebrating when it comes down to someone’s mistake as opposed to you grabbing it and winning it and I don’t want to sound sarcastic but you feel for Humphs that it came down to a moment like that.

“As a player you want to win the game and not rob it and that’s what we did in some ways.”

Ian Humphreys reacts to missing a conversion kick to the win the game Ryan Byrne / INPHO Humphries had kicked five penalties before missing a late conversion Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Axel Foley’s side have won both of their opening fixtures – against Sale and Saracens – and the December double-header against the French club will go along way to determining the final make-up of the Pool 1 standings.

“We’ll have definite areas we’ll need to improve on and the little things like the breakdown and the flow of our backs and forwards in general. The coaches will be hard on Monday, it will be a tough day, one for the hard hats.

“We set high standards and that’s what people expect. It’s a good way to be and we didn’t perform well tonight but we got the result and that’s a good way to be in some ways.”

Munster face Clermont at 5.30pm next Saturday.

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