Ulster emerged 19-9 winners over Munster in Ravenhill this evening.
Munster, disrupted before the off when Keith Earls was forced to withdraw through illness, were forced into a further reshuffle when Barry Murphy was injured in the 8th minute. In that opening half, such was Mick O’Driscoll’s dominance in the line-out that every time Ulster won a lineout one, even their own, it raised a huge roar. However they opened the scoring with a Rob Dewey try three minutes after Murphy’s departure Paddy Wallace converting.
Paul Warwick was on the mark immediately after with a penalty and he had a further opportunity in the 30th minute but from the Ulster 10 metre line his effort drifted narrowly wide.
Munster’s clearest chance of the half came in the 24th minute when Anthony Foley sent a grubber up along the left touchline for Anthony Horgan to gather superbly and take play near to the Ulster line. O’Driscoll was on hand to carry on the move but it ended when the ball was spilled forward as the pack arrived to drive the big lock over.
In injury time Munster lost possession on their own 10 metre line, Ronan was subsequently penalised and when Ulster won the lineout and spread it wide Ryan Caldwell was on hand to score his side’s second try, Wallace converted and the half ended with another threatening Horgan run that saw the winger just beaten in the race for the touchdown.
Shortly after the restart Horgan was forced to retire to be replaced by James Coughlan who went into the back-row while Ronan took up station in the centre. By then Ulster were reduced to fourteen after Ryan Caldwell had finally been shown yellow and though Munster laid siege to the Ulster line they could gain no advantage from their numerical superiority.
On 60 minutes the Munster midfield defence was carved open and Andrew Trimble scored a try right off the training ground but Munster’s riposte was immediate with Warwick landing his second successful kick.
With twelve minutes to go Jason ‘Dutchy’ Holland entered the fray as a replacement for Niall Ronan and shortly after Warwick further reduced the deficit with a penalty as the Munster pack continued to pummel their opponents in the set piece.
Munster: S Payne; B Carney, B Murphy, K Lewis, A Horgan; P Warwick, P Stringer; F Pucciariello, F Sheahan, T Buckley; D Ryan, M O’Driscoll; J O’Sullivan, N Ronan, A Foley capt. Replacements: S Cronin for Sheahan 70 mins, D Hurley for Pucciariello 60 min, M Melbourne, J Coughlan for Horgan 44 min, G Hurley, J Manning for , K Earls.
Ulster: B Cunningham; T Bowe, A Trimble, R Dewey, M Bartholomeusz; P Wallace, I Boss; (1-8) B Young, R Best, T Court, C Del Fava, R Caldwell, M McCullough, K Dawson, S Ferris. Replacements: N Brady, J Fitzpatrick, J Harrison, N Best, P Marshall, N O’Connor, M McCrea