Munster end Ulster's unbeaten run
Munster brought Ulster's eleven-match winning start to the RaboDirect Pro12 to an end at Thomond Park last night, but it was a hollow victory as they failed to secure a bonus point against a second-string side.
Munster struggled for long periods in the difficult conditions to put away Ulster's understrength side, but a good finish to the opening half and a strong start to the second period was enough for them to secure the win.
Ulster coach Mark Anscombe said it was inevitable that their winning run in the league was going to come to an end at some stage during the season.
"We are still in there, we are still in a healthy position in the table and we had a lot of young guys in there today who got some game time in there. Hopefully they'll be wiser and better for it and it will benefit them in the season ahead," said Anscombe.
Munster flanker Tommy O'Donnell said that while there was disappointment at not securing the bonus point, they were content to get the win which keeps their top-four hopes firmly on track.
"We are delighted to get the win. It was a tough game there with the conditions. The ball was very greasy but we are happy to take the win. We were a bit unlucky at the end not to get the bonus point but that's the way to goes.
"We have three big weeks coming up, Cardiff next week and then the two Heineken Cup games, but we'll keep building momentum and see how they go," said O'Donnell.
Ulster belied their understrength status and enjoyed long periods of possession in the opening half but yet found themselves 10-3 adrift at the interval.
Munster got an encouraging start with a penalty off the first scrum of the game but while Ian Keatley slotted that from 30 metres, Niall O'Connor's penalty from 25 metres in front of the posts was the least Ulster deserved for their effort.
Then Munster exploded into life before the break. Keatley stepped inside Luke Marshall for a great break which forced a five-metre scrum, with referee Alain Rolland finally awarding the penalty try as the Ulster pack buckled on the fourth reset.
Keatley's conversion made it 10-3 after 33 minutes and worse was to follow for Ulster when scrum-half Paul Marshall received yellow for unnecessary use of the boot on Donncha O'Callaghan.
Munster piled on the pressure after the restart and Simon Zebo spotted a gap in midfield and raced through to score his 17th try for Munster.
Keatley made it 17-3 and five minutes later Munster turned the screw when Peter O'Mahony, backed up by O'Donnell, drove through the challenge of Marshall to score just beside the right post.
Keatley again added the easy conversion to push Munster 24-3 in front and a try bonus point seemed inevitable. But Munster never pushed on from there and they never looked like securing the fourth try.
Despite losing their winning run, it was Ulster who finished strongly and crossed for a try in the final play of the night as Ali Birch went over for his first Ulster try, with Stuart Olding landing the conversion. They will bid to get back to winning ways next Friday when they host Scarlets.
Scorers – Munster: Pen try, S Zebo, P O'Mahony tries; I Keatley 3 cons; I Keatley 1 pen. Ulster: A Birch try; N O'Connor pen; S Olding con.
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett (capt) (F Jones 65), C Laulala, J Downey (R O'Gara 51), S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray (P Stringer 68); W du Preez (M Horan 63), D Varley, BJ Botha (S Archer 51); Donncha O'Callaghan, B Holland; P O'Mahony (J Coughlan 64), T O'Donnell (Dave O'Callaghan 70), P Butler.
Ulster: A D'Arcy; C Cochrane, M Allen, L Marshall, C Gilroy (R Andrew 70); N O'Connor (S Olding 60), P Marshall (M Heaney 66); C Black (T Court 58), R Herring (N Annett 58), A Macklin (R Lutton 65); L Stevenson, N McComb; R Diack, M McComish (A Birch 58), R Wilson (capt).
Referee: A Rolland (IRFU).
Sunday Indo Sport