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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 20 January, 2020
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GOOD EVENING

It’s the second of the weekend’s inter-provincial derbies, and surely this one will be more of a contest than Leinster’s 42-11 thrashing of Connacht last night.

Both sides welcome back a number of their Ireland internationals following the World Cup, which should add an extra bit of spice. Johann van Graan has named Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Peter O’Mahony, Niall Scannell, John Ryan, Jean Kleyn, and CJ Stander in his starting team, while Conor Murray starts on the bench. Jordi Murphy and Jacob Stockdale both start for Ulster.

Munster and Ulster have identical records of four wins from five in the Pro14 this season – with both losing to Cheetahs. You won’t need to be reminded that Munster are unbeaten in their last 24 home games in all tournaments. The last team to deny them a win at Thomond Park? Ulster, who secured a draw back in April 2018.

They’ll be confident of leaving Limerick with something again. Let’s hope we’re in for a cracker.

KICK-OFF

The rain has died down and we’re up and running at Thomond Park as JJ Hanrahan kicks-off for Munster. It’s a big night for his opposite number, Angus Curtis, who makes his first start at out-half for Ulster.

2 mins

An early stoppage as Jack McGrath needs some strapping. A big year ahead for McGrath, who will be hoping to play his way into Andy Farrell’s plans after missing out on the World Cup.

PENALTY!

3mins

John Cooney kicks Ulster into an early lead from close range. That brings him to 51 points this season. 

8Mins

Some early handbags, and Jack McGrath is told to cool it by referee Frank Murphy. Munster were starting to get a bit of momentum there after a slow enough start.

12Mins

Lucky escape for Ulster. Jacob Stockdale hammered a sloppy clearance right into Andrew Conway. The ball bounces back over the Ulster line before being carried out of play, and Munster get the five-metre scrum.

Flag 15Mins

TRY!

A neat move from the scrum is finished by CJ Stander under the posts. After a strong scrum Alby Mathewson feeds Rory Scannell. The centre is held up, Mathewson has a go himself, before the ball is reworked to Stander who drives over the line.

Hanrahan adds the extras and Munster move into a 7-3 lead.

Flag 19Mins

PENALTY!

Cooney nails his second penalty and Ulster pull the deficit back to one point. A sweetly struck kick from Cooney, but Munster will be disappointed to have coughed up the opportunity.

Flag 26Mins

PENALTY

Apart from that early try, Ulster’s defence is actually holding up quite well here and Munster are finding it difficult to break them down.

As we type, Ulster give away a cheap penalty and Hanrahan finds the posts to stretch Munster’s lead out to four points.

28Mins

A lovely passing move from Ulster breaks down as Marty Moore spills the ball under pressure from Stander. Munster turn over the ball, and Jordi Murphy is called for offside, allowing the hosts the kick back into Ulster territory.

Ulster need to be more clinical in those attacking positions.

30Mins

Hanrahan’s evening is over and Tyler Bleyendaal is on for Munster.

A smashing break from Hanrahan ended up with the out-half getting flattened after releasing the pass. Ulster eventually win the ball back but knock it on, with Hanrahan staying down. He limps off, and Munster will be hoping its nothing too serious with Europe around the corner and Joey Carbery also sidelined.

Flag 37Mins

TRY!

Rory Scannell manages to dot down after a great attacking move. From a lineout Munster go move right across the pitch, and great hands from Bleyendaal and Farrell allows Scannell to power over. 

Mathewson was central to that move, he’s been buzzing in this first half. Bleyendall strikes the posts with his conversion, but Munster will be happy to have built on their lead considering the possession they’ve had.

Flag

HALF-TIME

Remember when teams were putting soap on the ball during training at the World Cup? Ulster’s handling really let them down in that first half. Munster had the opportunity to swoop for a third try just on the stroke of half time as Angus Curtis and Matt Faddes both failed to collect a loose ball a few yards from their own line as they scarpered to defend a kick in behind. That’s kind of summed Ulster up here so far, plenty of hard work but just too many little errors. Jacob Stockdale and Robert Lyttle have barely got their hands warm on the wings.

From Munster’s point of view they’ll be happy enough, and they produced some nice attack plays, but they can definitely kick things up a bit in the second half. 

40Mins

We’re back underway at Thomond Park. 

 

No changes for either side. Ulster need to find a bit more spark in attack, while Munster will be happy to just carry on where they left off. Rory Scannell really stood out for Munster in that first half, but they may be able to get their back three more involved in the second 40.

44Mins

Cooney kicks deep into Munster territory after the hosts coughed up another penalty at the scrum. Ulster go down to the corner but Peter O’Mahony – who else – gets the lineout steal and Munster clear the danger.

45Mins

Peter O’Mahony gets his second lineout steal in as many minutes, and this time he’s able to catch it clean. Ulster far too wasteful, they really need to tighten things up.

Flag 51Mins

TRY!

Rob Herring gets over for Ulster after breaking away from the lineout maul. He did well to finish the move, but it kind of came from nothing as Ulster have been struggling to make much of an impact since the restart. Cooney kicks the extras and Ulster are just two behind.

It was important for Ulster to get the next score and they did just that. We have a game here!

54Mins

Ulster are putting some real pressure on now as both teams ring the changes in the front row. Chris Cloete is also gone after receiving some treatment, so Jack O’Donoghue joins the Munster backrow.

 

Here Herring’s try for Ulster. The hooker did well to break away from the maul, and Dan McFarland will be happy to see the set-piece move work after watching his team lose two previous lineouts in quick succession.

Flag 58Mins

Penalty

Conor Murray enters the action for Munster, just as CJ Stander is called up for going off his feet. The home fans don’t like the decision. 

Cooney sizes up the kick from some distance, and strikes it sweetly between the posts to move Ulster a 16-15 lead. Is a smash and grab on here?

63Mins

Cooney strikes another penalty from the opposite side of the pitch but it falls short, and Conway gets good distance on his kick to touch.

Just before that Mike Haley became the latest to spill the ball in a promising position as a Munster attack ended with his knock-on. The amount of handling errors tonight will be a concern for both coaches, even if the ball is a bit greasy. 

Flag 65Mins

TRY!

Absolutely magic from Andrew Conway. We were just about to type that Munster were looking increasingly disjointed, and then Conway breaks through a gap at the halfway line and puts the burners on, leaving a host of Ulster players in his dust. Bleyendaal kicks the conversion and Muster move into a 22-16 lead, just as they were looking in real trouble.

A massive moment in this game.

78Mins

Ulster are seeing plenty of the ball but just struggling to get out of their own half. Munster have looked better going forward since the fresh legs of Murray came in, even though Mathewson had a fine game. 

As Ulster go through the phases Murray wins the penalty for Munster, and Bleyendaal gets the opportunity to extend their lead. He drops the kick short, so Ulster are still alive as we enter the last few minutes. 

79Mins

Wow!

McCloskey intercepts Bleyendaal’s pass on the half but Rory Scannell saves the day with a crucial tackle. Surely that was the last opportunity for Ulster?

Flag 80Mins

FULL-TIME

Bleyendall boots the ball into the stand and Munster make it 25 games unbeaten at Thomond Park.

Not exactly a classic, and after looking really comfortable in the first half Munster ended up getting away with that one after switching off for a large period after the restart.

We’ll have a full report and reaction up shortly, thanks for joining us!

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