Anthony Foley’s team maintained their perfect record from six matches in the series with a display that suggests they will enter the May 16 decider as favourites against Cornish Pirates who defeated Doncaster Knights 43-5 yesterday.
The coach was thrilled by the performance but singled out Manning for special praise. Foley said: “He’s exciting on the ball, he controlled the defensive line well, he had a couple of good reads when they tried to play out the backdoor and was very solid. But above all, he took his tries really well. He’s one of the lads who was ruled out by injury for long periods of the season and we’re delighted to have quality players like that playing in the A team.
“While it doesn’t make my job of picking the team any easier, that’s great. Injuries above us hit our squad – guys are taken away from us and have to be replaced and that means we have to get more players in. But that’s a good problem to have.”
Manning began and ended the move that created Munster’s first try. His cross kick was gathered by Ulster centre Michael Allen whose attempted clearance fell short and Manning was there again to make a spectacular catch and dive over in the corner. Even though they had the wind at their backs, Ulster were struggling to make an impression against a Munster pack in which Peter O’Mahoney, Dave Ryan and Mike Sherry were to the fore. With Duncan Williams and Declan Cusack at half-back and Manning in the centre in outstanding form the visitors were always on the back foot.
All they could manage was a penalty by James McKinney but Munster were quickly back in control when Williams darted over for a well taken try. Cusack missed both conversions but then landed a tremendous penalty into the wind from 45 metres to send Munster in 13-3 ahead at the interval. Munster had the momentum in the second-half and Manning ended the game as a contest when he ran onto a Williams pass and weaved past a series of tackles to score a superb try. Cusack converted and then added the extras after a Mike Sherry try to wrap up a convincing victory.
MUNSTER: M. Lawler (Shannon); R. O’Mahony (Garryowen), D. Barnes (Dolphin), J. Manning (Cork Con), S. Scanlon (UCC); D. Cusack (Thomond), D. Williams (Cork Con); D. Ryan (Dolphin), M. Sherry (Garryowen), S. Archer (Cork Con); D. Foley (UL Bohs), I. Nagle (Cork Con); T. O’Donnell (UL Bohs), E. Grace (Shannon), P. O’Mahoney (Cork Con) capt.
Replacements: D. Kilcoyne (UL/Bohs) for Ryan, (injured, 41); P. Butler (Shannon) for (Grace 58); C. Murray for Williams (65); M. Kelliher for Barnes (65);D. O’Callaghan (UL/Bohs) for O’Donnell (69); L. O’Dea (Shannon) for Manning (73); S. Henry (UL/Bohs) for Sherry (73).
ULSTER: D. McIlwhaine (Queens Univ); C. Cochran (Dungannon), M. Allen (Belfast Harlequins), J. Shiels (Queens), T. Seymour (Ballymena); J. McKinney (Queens), I. Porter (Queens); P. McAllister (Ballynahinch), N. Brady (Dungannon) capt, D. Fitzpatrick (Dungannon), A. Linton (Queens), N. Macomb (Belfast Harlequins), A. Birch (Dungannon), S. Dougall (Malone), S. Lavella (Trinity College). Replacements: N. Annett (Belfast Harlequins) for Brady (62); P. Karayiannis (Queens) for McAllister (60); M. Pyper (Queens) for McKinney (68); L. Marshall (Ballymena) for Allen (70).
Referee: D. Phillips (IRFU).