Ulster held their nerve to go to the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 20 – 19 win over Munster at Ravenhill on Friday night.
Despite losing many battles at the breakdown Ulster’s superior fire-power up front eventually told with Jackson slotting over five penalties and Payne capped a fine personal display to claim the match deciding score.
|AS IT HAPPENED|
|00 – 05||Ulster get off to a slow start and Munster go into an early lead through a Keatley penalty on the 2nd minute. 0 – 3|
|05 – 10||Munster continue to dominate the opening exchanges with Keatley adding a second penalty on the 8th minute. 0 – 6|
|10 – 15||Keatley continues to go through his kicking repertoire adding a drop goal on the 13th minute to give Munster a nine point lead. 0 – 9|
|15 – 20||Ulster finally get on the scoreboard on the 16th minute with a Jackson penalty. A break from Payne should have resulted in a try but an offload from Trimble hits Paul Marshall in the face and he’s unable to gather with the line beckoning. 3 – 9|
|20 – 25||Poor work from Ulster as Munster force a series of turnovers. Payne goes close again, after a quick lineout, but the New Zealander is hauled down short of the line with no support available. 3 – 9|
|25 – 30||A bruising tackle by Cave on O’Dea sees the Munster winger replaced by Earls. The “Superstar” is warmly welcomed by the Ulster crowd! 3 – 9|
|30 – 35||Rolland unfortunately having a lazy game and he can’t be bothered to referee the breakdown. Munster read the situation better than Ulster and they dominate this phase with a succession of turnovers. 3 – 9|
|35 – 40||Jackson slots over his second penalty on the 36th minute. Munster respond with a text book score from Earls and Keatley converts. Ulster work a late penalty from Jackson with the final kick of the half. 9 – 16|
|HT: ULSTER 9 MUNSTER 16|
|40 – 45||Jackson slots over his 4th penalty on the 44th minute to close the gap to four points. 12 – 16|
|45 – 50||Munster nearly capitalise on a Paul Marshall charge down but Jackson clears with some composure. Ulster raise their game for a period of sustained pressure. 12 – 16|
|50 – 55||A stolen lineout keeps Ulster on the attack and the pressure tells with Payne going over for an unconverted try on the 51st minute. The score puts Ulster into the lead for the first time in the match. Cave subbed on the 54th minute with Gilroy coming on to the wing and Allen moving to centre. 17 – 16|
|55 – 60||Ulster play a better positional game with Jackson starting to look in control. Gilroy goes close with a trademark spin out of a tackle but Munster continue to dominate the breakdown, with turnovers at crucial times, despite Dougall being yellow carded on the 56th minute. 17 – 16|
|60 – 65||Herring comes on for Brady but little changes with Ulster pressing and Munster turning over the ball. Things begin to heat up amongst the players with a few niggling exchanges. 17 – 16|
|65 – 70||Munster reclaim the lead on the 66th minute with Keatley slotting over his second drop goal of the game. Ulster bring on McComb and McComish for the final push and they get an instant reward with Jackson slotting over his 5th penalty on the 69th minute to put the home side back in front. Munster slip on O’Gara. 20 – 19|
|70 – 75||A huge hit from Trimble sets up Ulster for the final exchanges but this period ends with another turnover by Munster when a push over try looked more likely.|
|75 – 80||Trimble continues to get involved in exchanges with a few Munster players which results in a mass handbagging in the closing minutes. Rolland bottles sending off Hurley and awards penalty against Trimble to set up a tense finish. O’Gara kicks for position but Ulster defence drives Munster back up the field and forces a rare turnover to seal a comfortable win!|
|FT: ULSTER 20 MUNSTER 19|
Ulster: Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Michael Allen, Patrick Jackson, Paul Marshall, Tom Court, Nigel Brady, John Afoa, Johann Muller (c), Lewis Stevenson, Stephen Ferris, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams. Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Mike McComish, Michael Heaney, Peter Nelson, Craig Gilroy.
Munster: Denis Hurley, Doug Howlett (c), Casey Laulala, James Downey, Luke O’Dea, Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams, David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland, David O’Callaghan, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan. Replacements: Mike Sherry, Marcus Horan, Stephen Archer, David Foley, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Earls.
It’s early days yet, and I still haven’t decided if we have a good coach or a lucky coach, but Ulster certainly rode their luck in this win against a spirited Munster side.
Rob Penny certainly won the battle of the coaches with his, far from first choice, pack dominating the breakdown with alarming ease and even when Ulster eventually got their act together the home side persevered with a fast paced game and continued to turn over possession when the game was calling out for them to slow things down and tie in the Munster defence by attacking round the edges of the rucks.
I’m a bit disappointed that the likes of Muller, Ferris, Afoa and Court couldn’t see this for themselves and play what was in front of them but I suppose at this stage of the season any win is a good win. It could however have been a lot more comfortable.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Anscombe’s stated policy of giving youth a chance I was somewhat surprised to see the composed Cave hauled off early in the second half and while both Gilroy and Allen performed well it was still a high risk move. Conversely young Doyle looked well off the pace at the breakdown and maybe should have been swapped out for the more abrasive McComish a bit earlier but I am nitpicking.
I was very pleased with Payne’s contribution throughout the game and I thought that Jackson played with a fair degree of confidence in the second half and started to look like he’ll be able to control the game in the near future.
It’s a pleasing enough start to the season and if Ulster continue to win their matches I’ll take a lucky coach any day of he week!