By Simon Lewis, Thomond Park
Munster 24 Ulster 24
Key moment: After trailing by 10 points at the break, Munster bossed the second half to keep the visitors scoreless. JJ Hanrahan’s 68th-minute penalty levelled the scores and Ulster went into the final two minutes needing a bonus point try, not just to claim victory but keep their season alive. Munster’s defence held firm and a stolen five-metre lineout by the excellent Gerbrandt Grobler snuffed out any hopes of the Ulstermen progressing to the play-offs.
Talking point: Ulster’s miserable and controversial season comes to an end with the northern province's failure to reach the Guinness PRO14 play-offs. After the traumas of a campaign blighted by the dismissal of director or rugby Les Kiss, and the sackings of players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding following their acquittal for rape at Belfast Crown Court, Ulster will be glad to move on to next season, although there is still a shot at claiming a place in next season’s Champions Cup via a possible play-off with Ospreys.
Key man: Munster loosehead prop James Cronin took the man of the match honours for a fine performance but must have been run close by his pack-mates Gerbrandt Grobler and Robin Copeland while Ireland captain Rory Best returned to Ulster colours with an excellent performance capped by two tries touched down after strong driving mauls.
Ref watch: Ben Whitehouse frustrated the home crowd in Limerick with a series of decisions at both the scrum and breakdown, where Ulster appeared to get the rub of the green more than once. He also yellow carded Munster’s Robin Copeland in the first half and Ulster’s Luke Marshall after half-time during a fractious game which saw both sides reach double figures for penalties conceded.
Penalties conceded: Munster 14 Ulster 11
Injuries: There will be concerns beyond Ulster at the sight of Ireland lock Iain Henderson limping off with a suspected knee injury during the first half while try-scoring centre Stuart McCloskey did not return from a Head Injury Assessment.
Next up: Munster had been guaranteed a home quarter-final for the last two weeks but would have preferred for next Saturday’s knockout round to have followed a victory rather than this draw. Edinburgh secured third place in Conference B before they kicked off at home to Glasgow after Ulster’s failure to claim a winning bonus point and it is the Scots who earned the right to visit Munster next weekend.