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A game of two halves! Four-try Ulster produce massive comeback to topple 14-man Munster

17-0 down at half-time, it was a huge result for Ulster in the Pro14 at Kingspan Stadium.

Ulster 24

Munster 17

A QUITE OUTSTANDING inter-pro saw a game of two completely different halves as Ulster took full advantage of a red card to Sam Arnold to see off Munster 24-17 at Kingspan Stadium.

Craig Gilroy scores his second try Source: Brian Little/INPHO

The visitors looked home and hosed at 17-0 up at half time, but Arnold’s second-half sending-off for a dangerous hit on Christian Leali’ifano gave the hosts enough momentum to take a bonus point from the tie.

A brace from Craig Gilroy, allied with scores from Darren Cave and Rob Lyttle, were enough for Les Kiss’ side, while Niall Scannell also notched two scores, with a penalty try accounting for Munster’s other try.

It was a fired up Munster side that took to the field, and they dominated from the first whistle. Despite JJ Hanrahan missing an early kick at goal, their forwards soon set to work.

The driving maul was a big weakness for Ulster in Galway a week previous, and so it proved again as Scannell threw into a lineout inside the Ulster 22 and steered his tight eight over the line for the opening touchdown.

The hosts nearly struck back immediately, good hands from Craig Gilroy setting Rob Lyttle down the wing, and he in turn released John Cooney only for Simon Zebo to cover across and shut down the attack.

Rob Lyttle and Keith Earls Source: Brian Little/INPHO

At the other end, Munster’s front five were dominating the scrum to give them field position and the maul was doing the rest. That combination worked again in the 25th minute, the scrum winning the penalty and the 5m maul being taken over by Scannell for his second.

Had Hanrahan had his kicking boots on the visitors could have been out of sight already, however he pulled another kick wide to make it three misses to start the game.

Fortunately for Munster, he didn’t have to kick for their third try which, despite being a penalty try, was made by Duncan Williams’ kick in behind and Calvin Nash’s excellent chase to force a defensive touchdown by Charles Piutau.

From the resulting scrum the inevitable happened, Ulster’s front row folding and referee Sean Gallagher correctly going under the posts.

Ulster should have gotten on the board just before the break but, with a penalty right in front of the posts, they opted for the corner and were forced into touch by a jubilant Munster pack.

But their mood would all change in remarkable fashion. Ulster dominated the early second half exchanges, however it looked like luck was against them when John Cooney had a try chalked off for interference off the ball.

Sam Arnold red carded by referee Sean Gallagher Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In one fell swoop that all changed, Munster substitute Fineen Wycherley was yellow carded for repeated infringements and, just two minutes later, Darren Cave shook off a tackle in the 22 to go over for the try.

Christian Leali’ifano was left on the floor in the build-up to the score and, when referee Gallagher went upstairs, it was decided that former Ulsterman Sam Arnold had hit him dangerously, and the centre received a card that matched his shirt.

With two extra men, Ulster couldn’t be stopped for a second, Cave dinking a kick in behind the advancing Munster defence and Craig Gilroy beat Simon Zebo to the ball by inches to get his first.

That signalled an end to Wycherley’s time off the field, and Munster came back strongly in response to seeing their lead trimmed by two scores, however just metres from the line Chris Cloete leapt into a tackle and conceded a penalty for endangering the tackle.

That spurred the hosts on, and with seven minutes to play they hit the front as they established a good forward platform in the 22 and, when the ball went out the backs, Leali’ifano tossed it over the top to Gilroy who crossed for his second.

Cooney landed an outstanding conversion from the touchline, and that looked like it might be all she wrote, but Ulster had other ideas.

Alex Wootton and Charles Piutau Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With one less man, the visitors visibly tired, and when Rob Herring set namesake Lyttle away down the wing, the covering defenders coming across had no realistic chance of stopping him.

The young winger swan dived over in the corner, Darren Cave roared to the crowd in celebration, and Ulster had what at half time was an unthinkable bonus point.

Scorers for Ulster
Tries: Cave, Gilroy (2), LyttleConversions: Cooney (2 from 4)Scorers for Munster

Tries: Scannell (2), Penalty

Conversions: Hanrahan (0 from 2), Penalty (1 from 1)

Penalties: Hanrahan (0 from 1)

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ULSTER: (15-9) Charles Piutau, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Christian Leali’ifano, John Cooney; (1-8) Kyle McCall (Callum Black 40), Rob Herring, Rodney Ah You (Wiehahn Herbst 40), Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell (Robbie Diack 75), Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel (Matt Rea 45).

Subs not used: Adam McBurney, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Andrew Trimble.

MUNSTER: (15-9) Simon Zebo (Bill Johnston 76), Calvin Nash (Stephen Fitzgerald 40), Keith Earls, Sam Arnold, Alex Wootton, JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; (1-8) James Cronin (Jeremy Loughman 64), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne 53), John Ryan (Stephen Archer 51), Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland (Fineen Wycherley 23), Tommy O’Donnell (Robin Copeland 64), Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue.

Sub not used: James Hart.

Yellow card: Fineen Wycherley (56’)

Red card: Sam Arnold (59’)

Man of the Match: John Cooney (Ulster)

Referee: Sean Gallagher (Ireland)

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