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It was heartbreak for Ulster Juniors as a last-minute drop goal from Munster’s Ben Ridgeway gave the visitors a two-point win in the second round of the Junior Interprovincial’s at the Cloughan on Saturday afternoon.

Ulster paid the price for a lacklustre first half performance which saw Munster run in four tries without having to raise their game.

Munster opened the scoring from the first play of the afternoon with, I believe, their winger Gary Kavanagh crossing out wide after the visitors maintained possession from the kick off.

The home side responded fairly quickly, forcing a turnover at the restart and keeping the ball until their captain Cory Tipping (CIYMS) battled over. Lee Steenson (Dromore) added the conversion to give Ulster a two point lead.

Cory Tipping (CIYMS) heads for the line for Ulster’s first score.

With both sides contesting the restarts well it looked as though a pattern of, win the restart, maintain possession and score, was being set up as Munster went over for their second try, out half Ridgeway crossing and converting to take the score to 7 – 12.

Ulster duly won the restart but were turned over shortly after and Munster’s replacement winger David Breen crossed for their third. Ridgeways conversion pushed the Munster lead to 7 – 19.

The home team again won the restart but a handling error saw Munster break from deep for Breen to race away for his second, and Munster’s fourth, try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed and the teams turned round with Munster leading 7 – 24.

It must have been some half time team talk as Ulster started the second half with great intent. Connor McKee (Grosvenor) crossed soon after the restart and, minutes later, out half Johnny Hyndman (Ballymoney) raced home after an intercept. Steenson converted both to take the score to 21 – 24.

Connor McKee (Grosvenor) sparks Ulster’s second half comeback.

After this initial flourish it a all got a bit cagey with Ridgeway and Steenson swapping penalties to take the score to 24 – 27. Ridgeway knocked over a second penalty with just under ten minutes to go to extend the visitors lead to 24 – 30.

Johnny Hyndman (Ballymoney) races clear for Ulster’s third try.

The impressive Tipping rallied his troops for one last big push and with the Ballyclare trio of Joel McBride, Robbie Reid and Matthew Coulter all featuring strongly alongside Ben Heath (Dromore) and Paul Armstrong (Clogher Valley) they got their reward, and what looked like the game, when Reid spotted a gap to stretch over close to the posts. Steenson knocked over the conversion to give Ulster a 31 – 30 lead with less than a minute left.

However, those all important restarts proved decisive.  Munster regained possession and drove the ball to the edge of Ulster’s 22 for Ridgeway to knock over a beautifully struck drop goal, with the last kick, to take the game 31 – 33.

Munster players surround out half Ben Ridgeway after his winning drop goal against Ulster.

Ulster Juniors: Paul Armstrong (Clogher Valley), Owen Kirk (Ballyclare), Joel McBride (Ballyclare), Robbie Reid (Ballyclare), Tom Caesar (Portadown), Johnny Hyndman (Ballymoney), Lee Steenson (Dromore), Gavin Warrington (Enniskillen), Matthew Coulter (Ballyclare), Gareth Beatty (Enniskillen), Ross Bingham (Dromore), Cory Tipping (C) (CIYMS), Ben Heath (Dromore), Jordan Taylor (Portadown), Connor McKee (Grosvenor). Replacements: Alan Whitley (Carrick), Cathal McNally (Newry), Paul Greenaway (Carrick), Timmy Woods (Ballymoney), Stuart Simpson (Limavady), Connor Cambridge (Carrick), Gary Clotworthy (Ballyclare), Michael Kirk (Ballyclare).

Munster Juniors: Derry O’Connor (C) (Abbeyfeale), Gary Kavanagh (Fethard), Kerry Desmond (Bandon), Craig O’Connell (Old Christians), Keelan Stephenson (Richmond), Ben Ridgeway (Bandon), Brian Bennett (Richmond), Vinny O’Regan(Fermoy), Scott Kingston (Bandon), Cathal Finn (Charleville), Olan Deane (Clonakilty), Brendan Childs (Galbally), Tom Ferguson (Bandon), Jamie Kind (Crosshaven), Darragh Crowe (Clanwilliam). Replacements: Dave McCormick (Clanwilliam), Ger McCormick (Thurles), Kieran Shannon (Skibbereen), Sean Walsh (Clanwilliam), Jack Breen (Skibbereen), Sean Herlihy (Newcastlewest), Eoin Lacey (Fermoy),  David Breen (Mallow).



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