Rugby: True grit from mighty Munster

Munster 19 Ulster 13

It was a comprehensive victory for the Peter Melia-coached Munster boys, a number of whom are certain to enter the reckoning in a serious fashion when it comes to piecing the Irish team together in the new year.

Both side had beaten Leinster in their previous outings, Munster only courtesy of a stoppage-time penalty landed by Thomas Gleeson at Donnybrook whereas Ulster had triumphed with something to spare.

It was apparent from an early stage that Munster had learned the lessons of Donnybrook and were much better prepared for the Ulster challenge.

The opening stages were played out in a heavy rain shower, but the slippery ball didn’t seem to faze the Munster boys who ran in two tries in the first quarter-hour to rock Ulster back on their heels.

They turned over leading by 12-6, but in fact lost that advantage for a short period in the second half before re-exerting their supremacy and rallying for a well deserved win.

“We had a very competitive side this year and dug in very well today,” said coach Peter Melia. “I thought when we got 12-3 up that we might on a better day have run away with it. Credit to Ulster, they didn’t back off and they met us on the line full head on and we had to fight for every inch of grass we got.

"But three tries to one is probably a fair reflection of the overall supremacy we had, although we had a lot of pressure and didn’t put points on the board at vital times.

"This is my third season in charge and in the previous two years, we had lost three and drawn one, so now we have put the record straight and put the Munster schools back up there on top of the pile with the rest of the Munster teams, the seniors, the U21s, the Youths.”

While Melia wasn’t for singling out any one player, he couldn’t overlook the huge contribution made by his number seven, Barry O’Mahony of Crescent.

It was his break that cleared the way for a sparkling third-minute try by Rockwell left winger Peter Shallow while O’Mahony went over for the second as he broke off the back of a scrum on the Ulster 22, threw an outrageous dummy to his right before sprinting clear without an opponent in sight.

“Barry has a massive future ahead of him, he’s a super young player, but it was a team effort and credit to all of them,” said Melia. Indeed. Shallow’s try was converted by Tom Gleeson while out-half Johnny Watt of RBAI kept Ulster in touch with two penalties and it was still anybody’s match at half-time with Munster 12-6 ahead.

Nevertheless, Munster looked good with second-rows Billy Holland and David Sherry (the sons of Irish internationals Jerry and Mick) cleaning up in the line-outs, skipper Michael Essex, O’Mahony and hooker Sean Cronin outstanding in the loose and the backs, and especially full-back Evan Ryan, coping extremely well with the slippery ball and underfoot conditions.

And yet the pack was caught out just after the break when Ulster rolled a maul some 15 yards and over the line for a try by Gary Mitchell converted by Watt to put the visitors 13-12 ahead.

It was a short-lived lead. O’Mahony again showed his pace and footballing acumen as he scorched through a gap and though stopped inches short, the ruck was won and there was no stopping Holland as he crashed over. Gleeson converted and although there was no further scoring, the better chances fell Munster’s way.

MUNSTER: E. Ryan (PBC); J. Shortt (CBC), T. Gleeson (PBC), A. Kelleher (PBC), P. Shallow (Rockwell); C. Doyle (Ard Scoil Ris), R. O’Loughlin (Ard Scoil Ris); D. Hurley (CBC), S. Cronin (Ard Scoil Ris), L. Casey (Ard Scoil Ris), D. Sherry (Ard Scoil Ris), W. Holland (CBC), M. Essex (CBC) capt, B. O’Mahony (Crescent), J. Harte (CBC). Replacements: A. Cahill (St Munchins) for O’Loughlin 60 mins; F. Daly (St Munchins) for Shortt (65).

ULSTER: T. Elliot (BRA); R. Drysdale (BRA), D. Cave (SUS), D. Marshall (Ballymena Academy), A. Wallace (Ballymena Academy); J. Watt (RBAI), P. Marshall (MCB); G. Murphy (Foyle & Londonderry College), C. Knipe (Royal School Armagh), G. Mitchell (RBAI), C. Lavery (Rainey Endowed), D. Best (Ballyclare), J. McCall (Royal School Armagh) capt, M. Connaughty (Ballymena Academy), D. Pollock (Royal School Dungannon). Replacements: R. Stirling (BHS) for Murphy 45 mins; J. Burns (MCB) and M. Suiter (RES) for Marshall and Watt 50 mins; J. Cornett (RSA) for Best 52; R. Carleton (RSA) for Mitchell 60.

Referee: T. Deacon (Leinster).

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