Ulster booked themselves a place in the United Rugby Championship Semi-Finals after defeating Munster 36-17 at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.
It was a matter of seconds before the first scrum of the evening, after a fumble by Peter O’Mahony when attempting to receive the Ulster kick-off. This put Ulster well into Munster territory, keeping the visitors under early pressure.
The hosts were awarded a penalty for a high tackle on Duane Vermeulen. Billy Burns kicked for touch and Munster infringed again in front of the posts. James Hume spotted his opportunity to go for the quick-tap and make the pass out wide to centurion John Cooney who dotted down for their first try. Cooney converted his score to put the Ulster men 7-up after 9 minutes.
The men in red started to build into the game, and press Ulster’s line. When they worked themselves close to the line, they opted for the pick-and-go, and Jean Kleyn went over at close range. Joey Carbery made the conversion to draw level.
Munster looked to go on the attack again, but Rob Baloucoune showed great vision to swallow up Joey Carbery and force the turnover as he got isolated. It set in motion a superb phase of attack by the Ulster men, Robert Baloucoune and Ethan McIlroy to the fore in sending Stewart Moore home for the try, and Cooney slotted the conversion.
The tails were up for Ulster, as they probed at their Inter-Pro rivals. They went through the hands along the back line - James Hume’s passing was sublime in getting the ball out to Stewart Moore who stretched out the arm in the corner for his second try.
Ulster started the second half brightly – it only took two minutes for the hosts to strike again. A lovely flat-pass from Stuart McCloskey sent James Hume on the break. The centre then made the pass to a charging Nick Timoney who put on the afterburners to race over, and Cooney made no mistake with the conversion.
Munster looked to have scored just two minutes later, after a charge down, but Gavin Coombes had lost control of the ball in attempting the grounding. They had another bite at the cherry nine minutes later, as Craig Casey sent Keith Earls over in the corner. Joey Carbery’s kick drifted right of the posts.
Ulster struck again on 60 minutes, James Hume setting in motion the build-up to his own try. He showed great strength to get over for the score as he was tackled just short, but his momentum carried him over. Nathan Doak nudged over the two points.
Munster pulled another try back nine minutes later after a period of pressure. Keith Earls bundled over for his second try of the evening. Carbery couldn’t convert so the gap was 19 points.
Ulster looked certain to score after Ethan McIlroy made a great read to intercept from deep. He passed out wide to Stewart Moore, but he was under pressure and was forced to try the kick through, but Ben Healy was able to make the sweep and keep Ulster out.
The men in white had done more than enough however to set up a Semi-Final place versus either DHL Stormers or Edinburgh next weekend.
Full-time score: Ulster 36 Munster 17
Tries: John Cooney, Stewart Moore (2), Nick Timoney, James Hume
Cons: John Cooney (3), Nathan Doak
Pens: John Cooney
Tries: Jean Kleyn, Keith Earls (2)
Cons: Joey Carbery
(15-9): Stewart Moore, Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Ethan McIlroy, Billy Burns, John Cooney;
(1-8): Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt.), Marcus Rea, Nick Timoney, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: John Andrew, Eric O’Sullivan, Gareth Milasinovich, Kieran Treadwell, Matty Rea, Nathan Doak, Ian Madigan, Ben Moxham.
(15-9): Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray;
(1-8): Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley, Peter O’Mahony (Capt.), Alex Kendellen, Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Jason Jenkins, Thomas Ahern, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Chris Cloete.
Absolutely love the confidence of some of our young @UlsterRugby players. That’s what’s needed to galvanise the team and help them believe that we’re worthy of another trophy. Well done boys! Here’s to the semi-final! #SUFTUM— Debbie Monk (@Debbie_Monk) June 3, 2022
What a match cant wait for the next one!! Ulster is showing great skill, what a back line!— McCormack (@McCormack9321) June 3, 2022