ULSTER 29 MUNSTER 19
Ulster moved into third place in the Rabo PRO12 table on Friday night with this deserved win over Munster in a typically feisty Irish inter-pro derby clash at Ravenhill Stadium.
Ulster had led 20-0 at one stage in the first half, but Munster, in typical fashion, clawed their way back in and were only four points behind at 23-19 going into the final quarter.
However, two penalties from RaboDirect man of the match Ruan Pienaar steered Ulster to victory.
He returned of seven from eight (five penalties and two conversions) for 19 points, while Munster kicker outhalf, Ian Keatley, returned two from eight.
Ulster had stormed into a 10-0 lead after eight minutes.
Scrumhalf Pienaar kicked a penalty on three minutes after an early break by Andrew Trimble saw Munster go off their feet at a ruck.
There were genuine appeals for a penalty try and a yellow card for Munster centre Ivan Dineen when he deliberately held Irish winger Craig Gilroy back from successfully chasing a Jared Payne grubber kick in for a try.
However after what seemed like an eternity the discussions between referee Allan Rolland and the TMO resulted in a penalty, from which Ulster then drove on from a lineout, flashed the ball out and outhalf Paddy Jackson put through a lovely weighted grubber on which Payne jumped for the try.
Pienaar added the extras for a 10 point advantage.
Munster went through a number of phases but made little inroads.
Outhalf Keatley missed two penalties on eight and 20 minutes, while Pienaar landed one from half way for a 13-0 lead.
Ulster began to dominate matters and it was no surprise that they eventually increased their lead.
After try scoring opportunities were missed, firstly when Jackson failed to offload a pass and then prop John Afoa was denied with a foot in touch.
But when Ulster turned Munster ball over in their own half, Payne made a blistering break, gave to the ever present Trimble. The Irish winger cut inside, brought three Munster defenders with him and his pass to Darren Cave saw the centre go in for the try.
Pienaar slotted over the extras from the touchline and a 20-0 lead after 38 minutes.
Munster got themselves right back in it with an unconverted try through the prominent Dineen with the final play of the first half and then further pressure and a great driving maul after a lineout saw prop, Dave Kilcoyne touchdown seven minutes into the second half.
Outhalf Keatley finally registered his first points of the evening, slotting over the conversion for his first success in five attempts.
Importantly it made it 20-12 and Munster were suddenly back in the match.
Rolland bottled another yellow card when Casey Laulala blatantly infringed at a ruck – but Peinaar punished the infringement by slotting over the resultant penalty for a 23-12 lead on the hour mark.
Munster responded with another penalty to touch, the driving lineout and the usual result – a try, this time for No 8 James Cloughan. Keatley’s conversion made it 23-19 and it was game on.
Ulster rallied and Pienaar slotted over another penalty after hands in a ruck from Munster which gave the home Province a seven-point advantage.
No surprise that the next Munster penalty saw the touch option take, but this time the ball was held up after the rolling maul.
The Munster scrum put the drive on, but collapsed and the penalty was much relief to the home fans.
Then lock Paul O’Connell was sin-binned and Pienaar kicked the resultant penalty and Ulster were safe at 29-19.
Ulster: J Payne, A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, C Gilroy, P Jackson, R Pienaar; (1-8): T Court, R Herring, J Afoa, I Henderson, D Tuohy, R Diack (Captain), C Henry, R Wilson.
Replacements: N Annett (Herring 73), C Black (Court 57), D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson (Henderson 61), N Williams (Wilson 63), S Doyle (Henry 66), P Marshall, M Allen.
Tries: Payne, Cave
Pens: Pienaar (5)
Cons: Pienaar (2)
Munster: F Jones; R O’Mahony A Conway, C Laulala, I Dineen, A Conway; I Keatley, C Sheridan; D Kilcoyne, D Varley, S Archer; D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell; P O’Mahony (capt), T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.
Replacements: D Casey (Varley 38), J Ryan (Kilcoyne 70), BJ Botha (Archer 57), D Foley (O’Callaghan 29), CJ Stander (Coughlan 70), D Williams (Sheridan 35) , J Holland, J Murphy (R O’Mahony 51).
Tries: Dineen, Kilcoyne, Coughlan
Cons: Keatley (2)
Sin-bin: O’Connell (78)
News Letter man of the match: Payne
Ref: Allan Rolland.