Munster deservedly see off Ulster to boost their hopes of a home semi-final

Munster won 24-17 in round 16 of the URC.

Casey and Earls celebrate a Munster try.
Casey and Earls celebrate a Munster try.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO



Garry Doyle at Kingspan Stadium

SO, THIS IS what a sporting hangover looks and sounds like. When you lose a Champions Cup game you should have won, when you are then asked to take on your second biggest rival six days later, you discover what it is like to do a job when you simply don’t have the energy for it.

The atmosphere was flat in Belfast, and so was Ulster’s performance. Even allowing for their bright opening – a John Cooney penalty the reward for their slick handling and patient phase-building – in the blink of an eye, they lost their zip.

Munster took control and never relinquished it. Tries from Keith Earls and Stephen Archer saw them on their way but it was the performances of Alex Kendellen, Joey Carbery and Chris Farrell that caught the eye.

As a result, their season is beginning to look healthy. They have Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarters and on the back of this win should also have the right to host an opponent in the URC quarter-finals.

Ulster, with a  trip to Edinburgh and a home game against the Sharks to come, are now anxiously looking over their shoulders. The Stormers and Munster have crept ahead of them. Two wins should still see Ulster get a home passage through to the final but life would be a whole lot easier if they had have got one here.

But aside from the opening 10 minutes, it never looked like happening. Even allowing for their bright opening – a John Cooney penalty the reward for their slick handling and patient phase-building – they lost their edge.

You just didn’t see it coming, not just because they were operating at a high-enough level, but also because Munster just weren’t clicking in this early period. That all changed on the back of brilliant piece of maul defence deep inside their 22 just after the 10-minute mark.

It was as if a shot of adrenaline had been suddenly injected. The things they were doing poorly instantly got better; their handling for a start, their confidence in attack, their willingness to try things.

Little gains went their way. Craig Casey was constantly looking for a break, Jason Jenkins, their big second-row who earned a pre-game promotion from the bench, kept making them. Other players impressed, too. At out-half, Carbery made a bigger contribution than his opposite number, Mike Lowry.

You sensed a score was coming when Farrell started getting his hands on the ball and then one did arrive just after the first quarter, when Stephen Archer, of all people, sneaked over the line after a five-metre line-out initially went astray. Funnily enough it was Archer who helped tidy things up for them before the big tighthead re-appeared two phases later to get across. Carbery converted, 10-3, Munster.

Six minutes later that gap was up to 12 after Archer again made a sizeable contribution, winning a turnover on half-way, before Jenkins, Damien DeAllende and Carbery combined to send Farrell through a gap on the right.

With Stewart Moore to beat, Farrell patiently bided his time before delivering a pass – a little low it must be said – wide to Keith Earls. The veteran finished easily.

keith-earls-scores-a-try Keith Earls touches down for his try. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Ulster were in trouble, the remainder of the first-half doing little for their confidence, as their big players, Rob Herring, Stuart McCloskey and Iain Henderson, struggled to get into the game. Indeed by the start of the second-half, Henderson was gone from it, replaced by Sam Carter.

You quickly got the sense that was not the only thing Dan McFarland did at half time, Ulster starting the second half with renewed energy and purpose, likely on the back of an old-fashioned rollicking.

Well, it had an impact. Even allowing for Carbery getting the first score of the new half from the tee, Ulster soon replied with seven points of their own, Herring getting across on 48 minutes after the Ulster maul had once again worked efficiently.

That had the additional benefit of bringing the crowd to life and they had further reason to raise their voices when Jordi Murphy stole a line-out and when Lowry chose to kick to the corner rather than at the posts on 54 minutes.

And then Munster reminded everyone they had an agenda of their own, replacement lock, Thomas Ahern, thieving Herring’s throw on his own five-metre line, denying Ulster the oxygen they needed. Mistimed throws at the set-piece were then compounded by misplaced passes in midfield, Ulster showing signs of panic, Kendellen exploiting it to win Munster a breakdown penalty, which Carbery converted to make it 21-10.

They stayed in control for the next 15 minutes and as the clock ticked past the 70-minute mark, you just couldn’t see a way back for Ulster. But they found a way. Shane Daly’s yellow card for a ruck infringement on 73 minutes soon became an issue of significance when Sam Carter first won Bradley Roberts’ lineout, and then drove his way towards the Munster line. Roberts then got in on the act to edge them closer before Sean Reidy, another replacement, got across. Madigan’s conversion gave Ulster hope.

But Carbery emptied them of that with his fourth penalty of the day. Make no mistake, Munster deserved this.


Tries: Herring, Reidy

Conversions: Cooney (1/1) Madigan (/1)

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Penalties: Cooney (1/1)

Munster scorers

Tries: Archer, Earls

Conversions: Carbery (1/2)

Penalties: Carbery (4/4)

Ulster: Stewart Moore (rep: Ian Madigan ’71), Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Mike Lowry (rep: Ian Madigan ‘), John Cooney (rep: Nathan Doak ’52); Andrew Warwick (rep: Eric O’Sullivan ’64), Rob Herring (rep: Brad Roberts ’60), Marty Moore (rep: Gareth Milasinovich ’23), Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (rep: Sam Carter ’41), Matty Rea (rep: Sean Reidy ’60), Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.

Replacement not used: Ben Moxham.

Munster: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery (rep: Ben Healy ‘), Craig Casey (rep: Conor Murray ’64); Jeremy Loughman (rep: Josh Wycherley ’52), Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer (rep: John Ryan ’52); Jean Kleyn (rep: Fineen Wycherley ’60), Jason Jenkins (rep: Thomas Ahern ’52); Jack O’Donoghue (C), John Hodnett (rep: Chris Cloete ’64, rep; Scott Buckley ’66), Alex Kendellen.

Replacement not used: Ben Healy,

Referee: Jaco Pyper (South Africa)

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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