Friday 24 November 2017

Scannell's golden drop-goal completes stunning Munster comeback

Ulster 14 Munster 15

Peter O’Mahony is tackled by Luke Marshall. Picture: Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony is tackled by Luke Marshall. Picture: Sportsfile

Jonathan Bradley

Munster knocked Ulster off the top of the Guinness Pro12 table with a late come-from-behind victory at Kingspan Stadium last night.

The visitors - who have not lost to their northern neighbours in five games - won for the second time since the tragic passing of Anthony Foley as a 77th-minute drop-goal from Rory Scannell put them ahead for the first time.

Ulster had led 14-0 after first-half tries from Charles Piutau and Rob Lyttle but they failed to score for the final 55 minutes of the contest and slumped to a first home defeat of the season.

Ulster lost Jacob Stockdale to a hand injury before kick-off, necessitating a late addition to the bench in the shape of Lyttle, and the young wing was pressed into action in the opening minutes when Darren Cave departed.

Not, however, before the hosts had taken the lead.

With just five minutes on the clock, Paddy Jackson sent a cross-field kick to the touchline and Craig Gilroy, with both Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam for company, got up to palm the ball down to Piutau, who had the simple task of dotting down for his first Pro12 try.

Piutau gave Munster a shot at the posts with a high tackle but, after a previous drop goal attempt had been skewed wide, Ian Keatley's effort was horribly off line.

Les Kiss' men deservedly doubled their lead when a Munster boot through a ruck directed the ball into the arms of Lyttle.

The 19-year-old, who had originally planned to play for Queen's against Corinthians in the All-Ireland League this weekend, squirted through poor tackles from Tommy O'Donnell and Keatley and dived over.

Munster pulled back five points in stoppage-time when Jaco Taute and Sweetnam broke tackles in midfield to work Scannell over in the corner.

Keatley's frustrating night continued with a missed conversion, and he hit the post with a penalty after the break.

It would be the out-half's last kick of the night as Munster then turned to Scannell in what was ultimately a match-winning decision.

Ulster's resistance was soon broken when Taute muscled over from close range after another series of pick and goes from the forwards.

With Scannell now handed the tee, he reduced the arrears to a single point.

Another frantic end-game seemed in the offing for Ulster but Jackson soon had a chance to ease the tension with an eminently kickable penalty won earned by former All Black Piutau.

An untimely firework punctured the silence as the No 10 approached the ball and his wry smile after the ball sailed off target told the story.

With five minutes remaining, Munster would made them pay with Scannell's drop-goal.

While last week's similar effort from Exeter and Gareth Steenson sparked an Ulster comeback, this time Jackson's response, from a much greater distance, veered right of the posts.

When Tommy Bowe failed to gather a Dan Tuohy pass on the right touchline, Ulster's chance to stage another late rescue was gone.

Ulster - C Piutau; T Bowe, L Marshall, D Cave R Lyttle 8), C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar (P Marshall 75); C Black (K McCall 57), R Herring (capt), W Herbst (A Warwick 64); D Tuohy, F Van der Merwe; R Diack (C Joyce 70), S Reidy, R Wilson (C Ross 28).

Munster - A Conway (A Wootton 60); D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O'Mahony; I Keatley (D Goggin 68), D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan (S Archer 70); D Ryan, B Holland; P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell (R Copeland 60), J O'Donoghue.

Ref - N Owens (WRU)

Irish Independent

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