IF bravery wins games, then this was surely a shining example of such. Munster centre Ivan Dineen’s persistence was rewarded in some style, as the young debutant’s injury-time try clinched Munster’s Magners League victory over Ulster at Ravenhill last night.
After a less than heady contest played in bitterly cold and wet conditions, all the drama was squeezed into the last five minutes. And for a change, Munster came out of the south Belfast fortress with reputation intact, points gained and their place at the top of the tournament table enhanced.
It was their first win over Ulster here since 2007, and that it marked the 200th appearance for Munster of the majestic Peter Stringer made the night even more memorable for an under-strength but certainly not under-motivated team.
The joy was obvious at the end for Munster, who had clung on to a 9-6 advantage only because Ruan Pienaar dreadfully missed an opportunity to draw his side level with less than two minutes to go.
If that wasn’t bad enough for Ulster, Pienaar’s attempt to launch one last counter-attack was doomed when Dineen latched on to his pass, picked it from under Ian Humphreys’ nose and sped off to score a try under the posts that Warwick converted for that ten points winning margin.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin highlighted Munster’s aggressive defence as being the key to victory and suggested Dineen’s try was a product of that determined stance.
Munster’s Tony McGahan also hailed Dineen for his hard work through the 80 minutes.
“I thought he defended extremely well, he chased hard, carried strongly and got a just reward to give us a well deserved victory.
“But overall, we asked for a huge effort from the forwards and I believe we got it; right across the park the forwards were very good, from the set pieces to their work at the contact areas, both in attack and defence. I felt Ian (Nagle) and Billy (Holland) were among those instrumental in us getting this result.”
Munster’s set piece was strong, aggressive and bore considerable fruit in terms of possession; it was a tribute to youngsters such as substitute Peter O’Mahony, Nagle and Holland as well as the more seasoned team members.
Conditions were such that an open, expansive, game was a non-starter and Munster played the conditions very well.
Ulster made most of the early running, laying siege to the Munster line through brilliant breaks from Nevin Spence and Adam D’Arcy. But as Munster’s defence held firm, the hosts had to be happy with two penalties from Pienaar in the 6th and 15th minutes, while Warwick took advantage of one isolated raid in between to knock over a penalty from 30 metres.
There were some isolated opportunities for Munster, not least when Nagle appeared to be in the clear before being called back for a previous forward pass.
Although Munster’s scoring chances were few and far between, coach McGahan will have taken more than crumbs of comfort from his side’s dogged resistance in snuffing out Ulster’s attacks.
First blood of the second half went to Warwick when he kicked his second penalty after three minutes.
In between, Munster’s outstanding work out of touch yielded a couple of lineout steals, before their efforts were rewarded 10 minutes from time when Warwick knocked over a long-range penalty for the lead.
Then came the drama, with Pienaar’s bad miss and Munster’s clinching seven-pointer rounding off a business-like performance with a touch of panache.
McGahan said: “I wouldn’t take anything away from them for what they got here this evening; we were missing 21 players, we were here in Ravenhill against a good Ulster side and not many sides come away from here with result not to mention denying them a bonus point. It was one of those games where we had to turn up and get the job done and we achieved that.”
He added that injured Munster players Alan Quinlan and Denis Hurley (both hamstring strains) are expected to be fit within a week.
ULSTER: A D’Arcy, M McCrea, I Whitten, N Spence, D McIlwaine, I Humphreys, R Pienaar, P McAllister, N Brady, B Young, J Muller (capt), T Barker, P Wannenburg, R Diack, W Faloon.
Replacements: L Marshall for McCrea (injured 28), J Cronin for McAllister (injured 54), C Henry for Diack (57), D Tuohy for Barker (65).
MUNSTER: S Deasy, D Howlett (capt), J Murphy, I Dineen, D Hurley, P Warwick, P Stringer, W du Preez, D Varley, J Hayes, B Holland, I Nagle, A Quinlan, J Coughlan, N Ronan.
Replacements: P O’Mahony for Quinlan (injured, 19), S Zebo for Hurley (injured, 61) , T O’Donnell for O’Mahony (70), M Sherry for Varley (74), D Hurley for Du Preez (75).
Referee: A Lewis (IRFU).
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