Tuesday 12 November 2019

Andrew Conway's class proves the difference as Munster claim narrow win over Ulster

Munster 22 Ulster 16

Munster's Andrew Conway races clear of Ulster's Jacob Stockdale on the way to scoring his side's third try during the Guinness PRO14 Round 6 match at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Munster's Andrew Conway races clear of Ulster's Jacob Stockdale on the way to scoring his side's third try during the Guinness PRO14 Round 6 match at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

You'd imagine that in the run-up to this Guinness Pro 14 game the Ulster lads were busy filling in their overseas new boys Matt Faddes and Sam Carter about the ways and means of interpro rugby.

For extra context they could have pointed to this fixture last season and its industrial load of points heaped on the away team.

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Taking 64 on board would have required a trailer on the back of the Ulster team bus for the long trek home. Whatever was to happen, they couldn't go back down that road.

So were they up for it? Certainly. Was their attitude enough to carry them far enough into the game to get a toehold and maybe something more? In the end they got a losing bonus point, and it probably felt like a win.

Just before half time the away side were faced with a bleak prospect. In chasing back to deal with Andrew Conway's grubber kick into the Ulster 22 Angus Curtis, making his first start at 10 in this, his third season, he made a bad situation worse.

So, a five metre lineout to Munster who were 15-6 at the time. You could see it jumping to 22-6 with referee Frank Murphy about to blow for half-time. And then the throw flew just over the target, at which point the Ulster lads skipped off the field looking relieved.

Ulster's Rob Herring scores his side's first try despite the efforts of Alby Mathewson of Munster during the Guinness PRO14 Round 6 match between Munster and Ulster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ulster's Rob Herring scores his side's first try despite the efforts of Alby Mathewson of Munster during the Guinness PRO14 Round 6 match between Munster and Ulster at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

They had looked second best in pretty much everything. Not a mile off, but enough to be two tries down without looking like getting over the line themselves. They had eked out a couple of positions but never had the control to finish.

Against that, Munster had seen one starter play turn into a lovely finish for Rory Scannell. It came on 37 minutes, opening with a good lineout platform and closing with Scannell taking Chris Farrell's pass out the back and replacement Tyler Bleyendaal had pulled it back nicely.

Outhalf is a bit of an issue in these parts with Joey Carbery having gone to the World Cup injured and come home from it worse than when he left.

It puts a huge premium on keeping JJ Hanrahan and Bleyendaal fit, but the Kerryman didn't return after being emptied painfully, but fairly, by Faddes after he led a promising attack into the Ulster 22 on the half hour.

By then they were 10-6 ahead after Hanrahan had converted a CJ Stander try – again, solid work around the corner breaking the door down for the number eight – and added a penalty against two good strikes from John Cooney, the controller in chief for Ulster.

Munster could have done with another body blow on their opponents with that last gasp opportunity in the half, but when the new period opened with two Peter O’Mahony lineout steals in decent Ulster positions you expected a gap to open. It didn’t.

With traffic increasing off the bench Munster couldn't kick on, and suddenly found themselves defending another lineout close-in.

This time Ulster got it right, mauled a few metres and Rob Herring did very well off the back – a weak tackle from Bleyendaal helped – to score.

Cooney's conversion left two points in it – and when they added a penalty on 58 minutes Munster were suddenly trailing a game they thought they would win handily.

That roused the 14,000 crowd – and not for the first time Andrew Conway responded. He produced a fabulous finish, leaving three tacklers in his wake, on a 40-metre run to the line having taken a lovely inside pass from Bleyendaal.

The Kiwi's conversion made it 22-16 – a win for the home team and a losing bonus point for Ulster. The latter would have been happier with that outcome.

Scorers – Munster: (CJ Stander, R Scannell, A Conway try each; JJ Hanrahan pen, con; T Bleyendaal con). Ulster: (R Herring try; J Cooney 3 pens, con).

Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell, G Coombes; JJ Hanrahan (T Bleyendaal 30), A Mathewson (C Murray 56) J Cronin (J Loughman 54), N Scannell (K O’Byrne 71), J Ryan (S Archer 54), J Kleyn (F Wycherley 48), B Holland, P O’Mahony (capt),CJ Stander (A Botha 670, C Cloete (J O’Donoghue 54).

Ulster: M Faddes; R Lyttle, L Marshall, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; A Curtis (B Johnston 79), J Cooney (D Shanahan 79); J McGrath (E O’Sullivan 57), R Herring (capt)(A McBurney 54), M Moore (T O’Toole 54), A O’Connor (K Treadwell 57), S Carter, S Reidy, N Timoney, J Murphy.

Referee: F Murphy (IRFU).

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