Munster conquer conditions and Ulster for deserved victory

THE focus of attention in this A interprovincial at Musgrave Park yesterday was surely only on a few as Munster coach Declan Kidney draws the line on his Heineken Cup squad.

Kidney has until noon today to submit his squad to ERC, and some of the players involved yesterday are already in the business of playing representative rugby.

Neither Kidney, nor Ulster A coach Terry McMaster, could have learned much from this — a game played in driving rain that failed to yield a score for 57 minutes.

It wasn’t the fault of the players, who were industrious throughout a difficult 80 minutes, but apart from trying to impress the coaches there wasn’t much to generate enthusiasm.

McMaster had to send bad news to Ulster coach Mark McCall that promising second-row Louis Stevenson could be ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Play was held up for eight minutes before half time as Stevenson was treated and then removed to hospital.

In the conditions, inevitably it was a tough, dour, forward struggle. Equally inevitably, Munster ruled the roost.

Tony Buckley made a positive return from injury, and Munster’s prop forward resources appear to be on the up, with Frankie Roche giving way to allow Tim Ryan make another big contribution. !

Munster finally took the lead with a try from Brendan Cuttriss, who snatched possession away at the back of a maul and dived in untouched.

That came well into the third quarter, and Ulster responded with a fine try by Andy Maxwell at the corner flag with 15 to go. Adam Larkin kicked the conversion for the lead, but Munster deservedly took the lead again in the 70th minute when Eoghan Hickey kicked a penalty.

Munster continued to dictate matters and held a distinct territorial advantage, even though playing against the elements. Munster’s forward power paid further dividends in the closing stages when Ryan was on hand to take a clever reverse pass from substitute scrum half Jerry Hurley and power over for the clinching score that Hickey converted.

As Kidney headed off to a major selection meeting in advance of the Heineken Cup, he described the game as a very useful exercise.

He said: “It’s very important for these guys to get games against their peers. The conditions were very difficult, but the pitch stood up well and the players did their own share to overcome whatever difficulties existed. It’s all part of the development process to bring guys through to this level.”

MUNSTER: D. Hurley; C. O’Boyle, T. Gleeson, T. Taipei, P. Owens, E. Hickey (captain), B. O’Meara, F. Roche, A. Kyriacou, T. Buckley, D. Ryan, S. O’Connor, J. Coughlan, J. O’Sullivan, B. Cuttriss.

Replacements: T. Ryan for Roche (40), M. Essex for Kyriacou (44), M. Melbourne for O’Connor, J. Hurley for O’Meara (both 50), K. Earls for Owens (52), B. Holland for Ryan (61).

ULSTER: M. Kettyle, P. McKenzie, S. Young, S. Morgan, M. Pahi, A. Larkin (captain), P. Marshall, N. Conlon, N. Brady, T. Court, D. Houston, L. Stevenson, T. Anderson, C. McCarey, C. Henry.

Replacements:. M. Wilson for Stevenson (40), P. Steenkemp for McCourt, A. Maxwell for Kettyle (both 44), S. Philpott for Brady (50), N. Simpson for Conlon, D. Drake for Marshall, N. O’Connor for Larkin (all 74).

Referee:O. Trevor (IRFU).

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