Munster claimed the inter-pro derby victory at Kingspan Stadium on Friday evening, with the Ulster men taking a losing bonus-point from the tussle.
It was a typically physical game, as both sides made bone-crunching hits and hard carries. It didn’t take long for Ulster to get themselves into a decent position of the field. Jean Kleyn was pinged for a high tackle and John Cooney slotted the penalty to get Ulster on the board after seven minutes.
Munster responded in kind five minutes later after Ulster were penalised for not rolling away in the tackle, which allowed Joey Carbery to draw level with the boot.
The men in white showed real invention with ball in hand, making the switch back inside, using decoy runners or delaying the pop-pass for their oncoming team-mate, which asked questions of Munster’s defence.
They looked like they might get over for a try from the driving maul, but Munster disrupted it well to force the turnover for a 5-metre scrum.
Munster took the lead with a quarter of the game played, after Ulster were penalised for not rolling away, and the men in red opted for the line-out. They went on the pick-and-go, and Stephen Archer crossed at short-range for the visitors. Joey Carbery added the conversion.
The visitors struck again six minutes later when Chris Farrell cut a good line to send Keith Earls in at the corner. Carbery’s conversion attempt was wide.
The hosts had a good spell of pressure in the final few minutes of the first half, but they couldn’t convert that pressure into points before going in at the break.
Munster extended their lead four minutes into the second half when Ulster were penalised for tackling the man without the ball. Carbery nudged over the penalty.
A moment of brilliance came from Stuart McCloskey after making the initial break; he had the vision to kick through for Mike Lowry to gather and bring Ulster to a promising area of the field. Shortly after, Ulster had an attacking line-out, and Rob Herring was the man to crash over from the superb maul for their first try. John Cooney fired over the extras, reducing the gap to eight points.
The Ulster men looked to make use of their maul once again with a five-metre line-out, but an Ulster infringement gave Munster the opportunity to exit.
On 59 minutes, the visitors extended their lead following an Ulster infraction inside their half, and Joey Carbery notched up another three points.
Munster’s Shane Daly was sent to the bin after illegally disrupting Ulster’s attack. The men in white opted to kick for the line-out and they went on the carry. Eventually, Sean Reidy made an athletic dive over the top to get the ball over the line for the try. Nathan Doak drilled over the conversion to put four points between the side.
That gap was short-lived however, as Ulster were penalised for jumping across the line-out inside their half and the visitors opted to go for the posts, with which Joey Carbery made no mistake. Ulster ran out of time before they could respond and Munster took the spoils.
Full-time score: Ulster 17 Munster 24
Tries: Rob Herring, Sean Reidy
Cons: John Cooney, Nathan Doak
Pens: John Cooney
Tries: Stephen Archer, Keith Earls
Cons: Joey Carbery
Pens: Joey Carbery (4)
(15-9) Stewart Moore, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Mike Lowry, John Cooney;
(1-8) Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Marty Moore, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Matty Rea, Jordi Murphy, Nick Timoney.
Replacements: Brad Roberts, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Sam Carter, Sean Reidy, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
(15-9) Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey;
(1-8) Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Jason Jenkins; Jack O’Donoghue (C), John Hodnett, Alex Kendellen.
Replacements: Scott Buckley, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Thomas Ahern, Fineen Wycherley, Conor Murray, Ben Healy, Chris Cloete.
Ulster's final regular URC fixture sees Cell C Sharks come to Kingspan Stadium on Friday 20 May (7.35pm kick-off).