Munster returned to Pro14 action in Thomond Park following a very disappointing European Champions Cup semi-final performance against Racing 92 in Bordeaux when they finished on the wrong side of a 27-22 scoreline. Munster have now lost their last six semi-finals.
Guinness PRO14 Round 21: Munster 24 – 24 Ulster
Great to see due recognition given to Bernie Dunne from Shannon who was nominated as the Pinergy and Munster Rugby Supporters Club #WeAre16 Fan of The Match, at the PRO14 game against Ulster. Bernie, who was among the thousands of Red Army supporters in Bordeaux recently for the game against Racing 92, was presented with a match jersey by Munster’s Conor Oliver and Brian Mangan from Pinergy. Photo ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
In Thomond Park, last Saturday Munster rested most of their first team squad in anticipation of next week’s qualifier against Edinburgh which kicks off at 3.15pm. The winners will play Leinster in the semi-final at the RDS on May 19th.
Ulster travelled to Limerick more in hope than expectation. As well as a bonus-point win, they needed Edinburgh to come away pointless from their game against local rivals Glasgow Warriors. Ulster’s slim hopes were snuffed out when they conceded a 10-point half-time lead which was compounded when Edinburgh won by 24-19.
Mike Sherry captained the side on his 100th appearance and Munster got off to just the right start when JJ Hanrahan, who returned early from a facial injury, pounced for the opening try of the game in the opening minute and added the conversion to make it 7-0.
Hanrahan played a part in the Ulster equaliser when his wayward pass was anticipated by Clive Ross. He passed to Jacob Stockdale who charged down the wing with the ball. Darren Sweetnam got in a tackle but Stockdale offloaded to Stuart McCloskey who crossed the whitewash under the posts in the 4th minute. Johnny McPhillips kicked the conversion to level the score.
Ulster got their noses in front when the Munster scrum was penalised after a quarter of an hour and Johnny McPhillips slotted over the penalty to make it 10-7 for the visitors.
Brian Scott put the home side back in front with a 26th minute try after good work by James Cronin and Mike Sherry. Cronin almost made it to the line but Scott followed through to cross under a pile of bodies. Hanrahan’s conversion made it 14-10.
Munster lost Robin Copeland to the sin-bin when referee Ben Whitehouse adjudged that he had pulled down the maul. Ulster made the most of the extra man by going for the maul again until their captain Rory Best touched down. McPhillips conversion gave the visitors a 3-point lead.
Best added the second try just before half-time when Ulster surged forward after being awarded a being awarded a penalty for a high tackle. With the conversion tacked on Ulster now led by 24-14 at the break.
Munster strengthened the side with some second-half replacements with Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn and Jack O’Donoghue around the same time that Copeland returned from the bin.
Robin Copeland scores on the hour to reduce the deficit for Munster.
Copeland soon made his presences felt with just eight minutes of the new half played when he scored his side’s third try. Gerbrandt Grobler, whose work rate was outstanding, won the lineout and James Cronin almost made it to the line. The lineout was called back and this time Copeland gather the ball and stretched for the touchdown. Hanrahan’s conversion reduced the deficit to 3-points.
Rhys Marshall and Rory Best were involved in a bit of a tussle after Marshall was caught high by the Ulster captain. During what followed Best’s scrum cap came loose. The referee awarded a penalty against Munster for an off the ball incident much to the annoyance of the home supporters.
Munster got their equaliser when the Ulstermen were penalised for not releasing and Hanrahan made no mistake to level things on 24-24.
Late in the game, Munster attacked, going through the phases, when Hanrahan spotted an opportunity for a drop-goal but his kick fell well short of the mark.
Ulster battled hard for a winner but Gerbrandt Grobler proved the Munster hero when intercepted the ball and charged upfield before JJ Hanrahan got possession and kicked it out.
MUNSTER: Stephen Fitzgerald; Calvin Nash, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Darren Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams (James Hart ’57); James Cronin, Mike Sherry (captain) (Rhys Marshall ’57), Brian Scott (Stephen Archer ‘HT); Gerbrandt Grobler, Darren O’Shea (Jean Kleyn ’47); Dave O’Callaghan, Conor Oliver (Jack O’Donoghue ’47), Robin Copeland (yellow card ’33). Unused: Jeremy Loughman, Bill Johnston, Shane Daly.
ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Craig Gilroy (Tommy Bowe ’69), Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey (Angus Curtis ’29), Jacob Stockdale; Johnny McPhillips, Dave Shanahan (Paul Marshall ’45); Callum Black (Andy Warwick ’55), Rory Best (captain) (Rob Herring ’69), Ross Kane (Tom O’Toole ’64); Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Kieran Treadwell ’23); Clive Ross, Sean Reidy, Nick Timoney (Chris Henry ’72).
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).