Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 4°C
# Northern Exposure
Cooney's sparkling form continues as Ulster run five past Munster
The scrum-half and centre Stuart McCloskey held sway in a dominant Ulster performance.

Ulster 38

Munster 17

THE FRANKLY FANTASTIC season of John Cooney continues unabated as the Ulster scrum-half produced another tour de force to help his side claim an inter-pro win over Munster.

And if these seasonal derbies still hold any element of the trial match about them, shining with Conor Murray in the opposition can only rubber stamp Cooney’s credentials as a scrum-half when Andy Farrell comes to name his first Ireland team later this month.

Cooney made sure the formbook was kept safely away from the window in this derby encounter, scoring a thrilling try among his 18-point haul. Robert Baloucoune, Matty Rea, Stuart McCloskey and – for the first time in almost a year – Jacob Stockdale also crossed to Kingspan Stadium a bonus point win to celebrate.

john-cooney-scores-a-try Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The evening began on a rocky footing for the hosts as it was Murray and Munster who clicked into attacking gear first. What Munster’s tight five lacked in caps, they make up for in potential and Keynan Knox helped lay a solid early set-piece platform leading to a slick short side raid from Murray and Joey Carbery, who slipped Shane Daly through a gap and the former Sevens international made the try-line on a roll despite being tackled.

Cooney and Ulster were on the board with a penalty three minutes later and, three minutes after that, a loose Daly return kick was turned into a clinical attack. Cooney whipped the ball to the short side on halfway and was trailing Stockdale’s powerful burst, taking the pass and deftly side-stepping Keith Earls before gliding away under the posts.

Holding a lead, Dan McFarland’s men really moved to sink their teeth in around the 30 minute mark, passing up four straight kickable penalties in favour of chasing a second try.

It took some huffing and puffing while Munster led a charmed life with referee Daniel Jones proving lenient as Rory Scannell was penalised for taking Cooney without the ball on the five-metre line. The pressure eventually paid when another advantage came Ulster’s way and Baloucoune made the space count on the scoreboard as he raced over.

dan-goggin-is-tackled-by-jacob-stockdale-and-will-addison Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Munster's Dan Goggin is tackled by Jacob Stockdale and Will Addison of Ulster. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Carbery would narrow Munster’s deficit to 17-10 at half-time with a nicely-struck penalty. But the second period was tilted Ulster’s way just two minutes after the restart as McCloskey showed the breadth of his talents. First, the big centre ploughed his way to a big gain with a powerful carry and his next possession was a deft pass inside for Matty Rea to storm onto and score.

It was turning out to be an evening to forget for Munster and the game unraveled further out of their control before the hour mark. Dan Goggin appeared to take steps sideways between catching and calling a mark. Line-out steals began to go the way of white jerseys and they soon shipped a fourth try as McCloskey powered over to seal the bonus point.

There was a riposte from the Munster pack as Niall Scannell scored off the back of a 66th-minute maul, but the roof had already come off Ravenhill thanks to Stockdale’s first Ulster try since last January. It was a familiar scene for the Ireland wing as he romped away to complete the intercept score, but his hunger for the try was clear to see through his intent to wrestle the pill from Sammy Arnold’s hands.

From there on in, both sides began to look as though they would be happy enough to call an early halt and move on to European matters. Christ Cloete and Kyle McCall made it to the showers first as they picked up yellow cards before the derby fizzled out at full-time.

matthew-rea-celebrates-scoring-a-try-with-john-cooney Dan Sheridan / INPHO Ulster's Matthew Rea celebrates scoring a try with John Cooney. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Both of these sides face daunting French trips next weekend, but Munster will require a marked upturn in form to take the spoils against Racing.

Ulster in Clermont, well, it’s getting harder and harder to write this side off.


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Tries: J Cooney, R Baloucoune, M Rea, S McCloskey, J Stockdale

Conversions: J Cooney (5/5)

Penalties: J Cooney (1/1)


Tries: S Daly, N Scannell

Conversions: J Carbery (2/2)

Penalties: J Carbery (1/1)

Ulster:  Will Addison, Robert Baloucoune,  Luke Marshall (Craig Gilroy ’43),  Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale,  Billy Burns (Dave Shanahan ’63), John Cooney (Angus Kernohan ’73): Jack McGrath (Kyle McCall ’63),  Rob Herring (John Andrew ’72),  Marty Moore (Tom O’Toole ’58);  Alan O’Connor (David O’Connor ’71),  Iain Henderson , Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy (Greg Jones ’71), Nick Timoney.

Munster:  Shane Daly,  Andrew Conway (Dan Goggin ’40),  Sammy Arnold,  Rory Scannell,  Keith Earls,  Joey Carbery,  Conor Murray (Neil Cronin ’73): Jeremy Loughman (Dave Kilcoyne ’44),  Niall Scannell (Diarmuid Barron ’71),  Keynan Knox (John Ryan ’44);  Fineen Wycherley (Gavin Coombes ’32), Darren O’Shea (Chris Cloete ’62), Peter O’Mahony, Jack O’Donoghue, Arno Botha (Jack O’Sullivan ’55).


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