Planet Rugby

Munster put Ulster to the sword

29th December 2012 19:20

Share:

Simon Zebo Heineken Cup 2012 Northampton v Munster

Simon Zebo: Crossed the whitewash

Munster made inroads into Ulster's lead at the top of the PR012 table after claiming a convincing 24-10 win over the Ulstermen at Thomond Park on Saturday.

Given the plethora of changes, this was always likely to be a difficult game for Ulster.

Considering the fact that the national management had conscripted several key players for a pre-Six Nations training camp, Ulster's decision to rest some personnel appeared a high-risk strategy. Thomond Park is always an arduous destination in any case; the Ulstermen having a fairly dismal record at the venue.

The game began at breakneck speed, with the hosts displaying intent to smash the Ulster defence to pieces. The opening exchanges were played at a breathtaking intensity, with Munster targeting the visitors' set piece in particular.

Indeed it was their scrummaging superiority that produced the opening points of the match. An ascendant Munster scrum on 3 minutes yielded a penalty for the two-time Heineken Cup champions.

Munster continued to dominate in the physicality stakes, but Ulster manfully withstood the opening storm, and responded with some territorial pressure of their own.

Niall O'Connor kept the league leaders pinned in the Munster 22, as the visitors laid siege to the home try line. Ulster were rewarded with a penalty for their efforts on 13 minutes, but O'Connor was off kilter with his kick. The Ulster fly-half did open the visitors' account on 22 minutes, however, to equalise the scoreline at 3-3.

By this stage, the conditions were deteriorating at a rapid rate as the rain came bucketing down in Limerick. Consequently the game became rather error-strewn, with the ball being reduced to the proverbial bar of soap. All things considered, Ulster were coping with the conditions and the changes in personnel remarkably well.

However a fifteen-minute period either side of half-time was to turn the match on its head. The change in fortunes began when Ulster scrum-half Paul Marshall was sin-binned for a reckless boot aimed at Donncha O'Callaghan. Sensing their opportunity, the home pack started to turn the screw.

The resultant penalty saw Munster camped in Ulster's 22. After several infringements, the home team opted for a succession of scrums. Botha exerted massive pressure on Callum Black, and referee Rolland awarded the inevitable penalty try. Keatley added the conversion to make it 10-3 to Munster.

The second half commenced in similar fashion, with 14-man Ulster under the cosh. Zebo extended the advantage on 44 minutes, after a gaping hole emerged in Ulster's midfield defence. When O'Mahony crashed over on 50 minutes, a rout seemed on the cards as the hosts pushed for the bonus point.

In the corresponding fixture in May, Ulster had capitulated and the league leaders would surely have feared a similar outcome. But Mark Anscombe's men are made of considerably sterner stuff. A raft of substitutions galvanised the visitors, infusing them with fresh blood.

Suddenly, it was Munster who were on the back foot. Ulster seemed to have re-discovered their attacking mojo, and made several inroads into Munster territory. Indeed the Munster management felt compelled to introduce old heads, Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer to steady the ship.

Ulster's granite like defence held firm at the other end to deny Munster a much-needed bonus point. Fittingly, it was Ulster who had the final say. Some neat handling saw Ali Birch touch down for a well-deserved consolation.

The impressive Olding converted to make it 24-10. Munster had secured a thoroughly deserved victory. Given the changes that had been imposed on his team, Anscombe will be more than happy with his charges' performance.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Zebo, O'Mahony, penalty try
Pen: Keatley
Cons: Keatley 2

For Ulster:
Try: Birch
Pen: O'Connor
Con: Olding
Yellow Card: Marshall (34 min)

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Doug Howlett (c), 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Paddy Butler, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damian Varley, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O'Callaghan, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Peter Stringer, 22 Ronan O'Gara, 23 Felix Jones.

Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Chris Cochrane, 13 Michael Allen, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson , 7 Mike McCormish, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Neil McComb, 4 Louis Stevenson, 3 Adam Macklin, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ricky Lutton , 18 Tom Court, 19 Alan O'Connor, 20 Ali Birch, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Stuart Olding, 23 Ricky Andrew.

by Rory McGimpsey

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 26
Waratahs vs Brumbies19:40
Crusaders vs Sharks19:35
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Saturday , July 19
Brumbies 32 - 30 ChiefsBrumbies vs Chiefs Report
Sharks 31 - 27 HighlandersSharks vs Highlanders Report
Saturday , July 12
Crusaders 34 - 8 HighlandersCrusaders vs Highlanders Report
Reds 3 - 34 WaratahsReds vs Waratahs Report
Lions 60 - 25 CheetahsLions vs Cheetahs Report
Stormers 10 - 34 SharksStormers vs Sharks Report
Friday , July 11
Blues 8 - 11 ChiefsBlues vs Chiefs Report
Brumbies 47 - 25 Western ForceBrumbies vs Western Force Report
Bulls 40 - 7 Melbourne RebelsBulls vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Sunday , July 6
Waratahs 44 - 16 HighlandersWaratahs vs Highlanders Report
Saturday , July 5
Crusaders 21 - 13 BluesCrusaders vs Blues Report
Western Force 30 - 20 RedsWestern Force vs Reds Report
Stormers 16 - 0 BullsStormers vs Bulls Report
Cheetahs 27 - 20 SharksCheetahs vs Sharks Report
Friday , July 4
Chiefs 24 - 16 HurricanesChiefs vs Hurricanes Report
Lions 34 - 17 Melbourne RebelsLions vs Melbourne Rebels Report
More Super Rugby results
International Match
Saturday , June 28
South Africa 55 - 6 ScotlandSouth Africa vs Scotland Report
More International Match results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 16 - 9 CrusadersHurricanes vs Crusaders Report
Waratahs 39 - 8 BrumbiesWaratahs vs Brumbies Report
Western Force 14 - 40 BluesWestern Force vs Blues Report
Friday , June 27
Highlanders 29 - 25 ChiefsHighlanders vs Chiefs Report
Melbourne Rebels 20 - 36 RedsMelbourne Rebels vs Reds Report
More Super Rugby results
International Match
Saturday , June 21
Australia 39 - 13 FranceAustralia vs France Report
South Africa 31 - 30 WalesSouth Africa vs Wales Report
New Zealand 36 - 13 EnglandNew Zealand vs England Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00