Wednesday 12 December 2018

Ulster overturn 17-point half-time deficit to topple Irish rivals Munster

Craig Gilroy touched down twice for Ulster against Munster
Craig Gilroy touched down twice for Ulster against Munster

Ulster produced a huge second-half comeback to snatch a dramatic bonus-point 24-17 win over Irish provincial rivals Munster at the Kingspan Stadium.

Les Kiss' side - under pressure after their previous slump at Connacht - trailed 17-0 at half-time of the Guinness PRO14 encounter and looked out of the game before two tries from Craig Gilroy and a score apiece from Darren Cave and Rob Lyttle secured the game.

John Cooney's touchline conversion of Gilroy's second put the home team ahead for the first time in the match in the 75th minute, with Lyttle's try clinching the bonus point in the last minute.

Ulster's cause was helped in the second half by Munster having Sam Arnold red-carded and lock Fineen Wycherley yellow-carded, with Kiss' side scoring twice against 13 men to boost their fightback.

Munster hooker Niall Scannell scored twice, while the southern province were also awarded a penalty try.

Visiting fly-half JJ Hanrahan was wide with a second-minute penalty, but Munster then got their first score on 14 minutes when Scannell was driven over from a lineout maul.

Hanrahan missed the conversion and did so again from a trickier attempt after the visitors powered over again from another lineout maul which again saw Scannell get the score to move the visitors into a 10-0 lead.

That became 17-0 just after the half-hour mark when Ulster conceded a five-metre scrum and Munster, on the third reset, shunted them backwards with referee Sean Gallagher marching under the posts to award the penalty try.

Ulster started the second half strongly but Cooney's 50th-minute try was ruled out by the television match official for an illegal clear-out.

Munster were then reduced to 14 men when replacement lock Wycherley was yellow-carded in the 55th minute, and that became 13 men when Arnold was red-carded for a hit on Christian Lealiifano in the lead-up to Cave's 58th-minute score which Cooney converted.

Ulster struck again on 61 minutes when Cave's kick through was collected by Gilroy, who dotted down to cut Munster's lead to 17-12. Cooney missed the conversion.

And then with six minutes remaining - and Munster now with 14 again - Lealiifano's floated pass put in Gilroy at the corner to tie the scores.

Cooney struck a marvellous conversion and Ulster led for the first time at 19-17.

Lyttle then got the bonus point in the last minute and, although Cooney failed to add the extras, the hosts' comeback was complete.

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