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
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
Sunday , November 30
London Irish vs Gloucester13:00
London Welsh vs Northampton14:30
Newcastle vs Sale15:15
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
Sunday , November 30
Glasgow vs Newport Gwent D'gons16:00
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Montpellier18:00
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:00
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Sunday , November 30
Stade Francais vs Brive18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens 24 - 31 NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Report
London Welsh 5 - 26 Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Georgia 35 - 24 JapanGeorgia vs Japan Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Treviso 24 - 24 LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Report
Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
More Aviva Premiership results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Northampton830
2Exeter828
3Bath828
4Saracens825
5Leicester Tigers821