Ulster came to Temple Hill yesterday with a much stronger side and emerged as deserved victors with an accomplished performance in a much tighter game.
Ulster coaching director Matt Williams beamed as he welcomed the win but admitted: “It was a typical Irish provincial derby, with little or nothing between the sides. It wasn’t always pretty but it was always pretty intense,” he said.
Actually, Williams was only an observer on a day when the main man on the touchline was former Irish international second row Gary Longwell, who observed: “It was tough, a close call, but of benefit, I’m sure, to both sides.”
Hamish Adams, the Munster coach, agreed, saying: “It was a very intense game; we had a couple of injury problems during the week and that proved a disruption, but we’re happy, apart from the defeat, to have got players through a difficult game.’’
At times in yesterday’s game it appeared that referee Dudley Philips was the central figure; the shrill from his whistle came often and it wasn’t always to the satisfaction to either side. At least he was consistent in his interpretation of the rules even if it didn’t allow for a free-flowing game.
Both teams, in fairness, made a considerable number of mistakes and eventually it came down to who made the least.
James Coughlan can be proud of the way he led the Munster side as much as the more experienced Matt McCullough can of his role with Ulster.
Munster, despite a scare at the start when Seamus Mallon almost went in for a try, had the better of the first half and Conan Doyle’s break was agonisingly short of creating the first try.
Instead, Munster had to rely on two penalty goals from Paul Warwick in the 19th and 24th minutes, before they fell to a sucker punch 11 minutes from the break.
Ulster out half Kieran Hallett was on hand to provide the scoring pass to Paul McKenzie and then added the conversion to give his side an unlikely one point lead at the break.
But if that appeared to be fortunate, Ulster could well have gone on to secure a more comfortable win in the end.
Hallett missed two kickable penalties on either side of his 67th minute drop goal but that last score was enough to secure the win as Munster continued to make handling mistakes in their pursuit of victory.
D. Hurley, B. Carney, T. Gleeson, C. Doyle, A. Horgan, P. Warwick, T. O’Leary, F. Gateley, D. Fogarty, T. Ryan, B. Holland, D. Sherry, J. Paringati, J. Coughlan (captain), J. O’Sullivan.
K. Gaffney for Gateley, S. Cronin for Fogarty (injured), T. O’Donnell for Paringati, B. O’Mahony for O’Sullivan, J. Hurley for Carney, E. Ryan for Doyle, I. Hanley for Horgan.
M. Bartolomeuz, M. Kettyle, S. Mallon, D. Cave, P. McKenzie, K. Hallett, P. Marshall, J. Carey, S. Philpott, T. Court, F. Paulo, M. McCullough (captain), T. Anderson, C. Heirey, W. Faloon.
J. Fitzpatrick for Carey, M. Miles for Phlpott, S. McDermott for Anderson, G. Webb for Feloon, K. Campbell for Marshall, I. Whitten for Cave, D. Black for Bartolomeuz.
D. Philips (IRFU).