Munster edged in a thrilling inter-provincial encounter at Thomond Park on Friday night, outscoring Ulster by five tries to four in a 32-28 success.
It was Ulster who opened the scoring in the just the second minute when Craig Gilroy ran in from 70 yards out to notch his third try of the season. Darren Cave was the architect, collecting a loose pass from his opposite number Francis Saili and offloading for the winger to race clear.
Paddy Jackson, who, like Cave, was making his first start of the season for Ulster, was unable to add the conversion from the touchline.
Munster responded with a well-worked try from Andrew Conway, as the fullback made the most of good interplay between Tomas O’Leary and James Cronin to touch down. Ian Keatley’s conversion pushed his side into a 7-5 lead but that lasted just two minutes as good pressure from the visitors allowed Jackson to knock over a simple penalty.
Gilroy then added his second in the 26th minute with a close range finish. Nick Williams did the initial damage with a powerful surge and Paul Marshall delivered quick service phase after phase before feeding Gilroy in the corner. Jackson’s conversion attempt was again wayward from wide on the right.
Munster again replied, this time immediately, through number 8 Robin Copeland. Simon Zebo snatched a fortuitous rebound and fed Keatley, whose inside pass sent Copeland under the posts. Keatley added the extras for a 14-13 advantage.
Gerhard van der Heever added a third just moments later, in what was a great spell for the home side. He collected the ball and rounded Andrew Trimble, before dotting down in the corner. Keatley’s scuffed kick from the right touchline left the score at 19-13, with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Ulster scored their third try on the stroke of half time when Williams crashed over for an unconverted score following a powerful maul from the Ulster forwards.
Half time: Munster 19 Ulster 18
Andrew Trimble was replaced by Sammy Arnold at the interval and the 19-year-old looked busy in the early stages of the second period as Ulster dominated proceedings. Jackson took advantage of that good spell to slot over a fine drop goal for a 19-21 lead, but aKeatley kicked his first penalty to regain control.
There was little between the two teams in the third quarter but Munster kicked into life on the hour mark, scoring two unconverted tries in a devastating five minute display. The first came courtesy of an up and under from Keatley in the in-goal area, with Conway rising highest to palm the ball back for captain Denis Hurley to ground. Then Zebo found space on the right to register his team’s fifth try of the evening and extend the lead to 32-21.
With just ten minutes remaining, good hands from Ulster released Dan Tuohy in space and the big second row crossed for the bonus point try. Jackson nailed the conversion to bring Ulster to within four points of their opponents.
The closing stages saw Neil Doak’s men lay siege to the home try line, with Chris Henry – making his first appearance of the season – to the fore in a gallant effort. Cave, Jackson, McCloskey and Williams also battered the Munster defence but found no way through.
And so Ulster must be content with two bonus points, in a game that could have easily yielded five.
— Sportsfile (@sportsfile) October 30, 2015