Magners League
Ulster stun title-chasing Munster
PA Sport
January 3, 2009
Report Match details
Date/Time: Jan 3, 2009, 19:30 local, 19:30 GMT
Munster 11 - 37 Ulster
Half-time: 6 - 22
Tries: Howlett
Pens: Warwick 2
Tries: Cave, Court, McCrea, Trimble, Wallace
Cons: Humphreys 3
Pens: Humphreys 2
Ulster centre Darren Cave in Heineken Cup action against Harlequins, October 18 2008
Centre Darren Cave scored one of Ulster's five tries at Thomond Park
© Getty Images

Ulster upset title-chasing Munster with a thumping 37-11 victory in their Magners League clash at Thomond Park.

In doing so Ulster became the first Irish team to beat Munster at Thomond Park since Leinster did so in December 1995, as they humbled the Heineken Cup champions with a devastating five-try salvo.

Paddy Wallace, Darren Cave, Mark McCrea, Tom Court and Andrew Trimble all touched down for Ulster as Munster's bid to move back to the top of the Magners League crumbled. Man-of-the-match Ian Humphreys also enhanced his chances of featuring in Ireland's Six Nations squad as he orchestrated many of Ulster's key scores, while contributing 12 points of his own.

Nothing went right for Munster with knock-ons and poor decision making undermining their play while Ronan O'Gara and Rua Tipoki both limped off with injuries. Ulster looked cohesive right from the kick-off, working through the phases and threatening out wide through Timoci Nagusa and the deceptively quick Cave.

The returning Tipoki, playing for the first time since sustaining ligament damage against New Zealand, showed some neat touches as Munster marched back downfield. But when an O'Gara grubber kick was blocked down on the Ulster 22, the visitors quickly turned possession into a breakaway try.

Stephen Ferris did well to gather the loose ball and find Nigel Brady and although the hooker's pass on the 10-metre line to Wallace looked decidedly forward, referee Alan Lewis allowed play to continue and the Ulster centre had the legs on the Munster cover to go in under the posts. Humphreys tapped over the conversion and Munster were struggling to get out of first gear, with O'Gara pushing a penalty attempt wide before he departed with a hamstring injury.

Humphreys moved Ulster 10-0 ahead but O'Gara's replacement Paul Warwick converted a 20th-minute penalty to get Munster on the scoreboard. Munster gained territory through Warwick's line kicking, however Matt Williams' men were solid in the lineout and showed more commitment at the breakdown.

And then, nine minutes from the break, Humphreys' well-weighted kick out to the left bounced perfectly for the onrushing Cave to slip through for a sucker-punch try. Humphreys increased his influence by nailing the conversion from the touchline, before Warwick replied with a penalty.

But Ulster pressed for more points and their adventure was rewarded in first half injury-time when Humphreys brilliantly off-loaded for replacement McCrea to stretch his legs and crash over in the right corner. Munster were 22-6 down at half-time and the sight of Tipoki limping off only served to add to their woes.

It took Ulster just six minutes after the interval to get their bonus point score when prop Court burrowed over for a converted try. Federico Pucciariello and Matt McCullough saw yellow for an off-the-ball clash and Ulster were down to 13 players when stand-in captain Kieron Dawson was sin-binned for a deliberate offside.

Before that, Humphreys had managed to tag on another penalty and while Munster gained some consolation with a Warwick-inspired try for Howlett, Ulster's defending was typified for the efforts of Ferris and Paul Steinmetz in denying Kieran Lewis a certain try.

With mistakes littering their game, Munster coughed up another try five minutes from time when Trimble dotted down after following up on a dinked kick from Humphreys.

Ulster coach Matt Williams was understandably delighted with the result. "To come to one of the greatest grounds in the world and to win the way we did with ball in hand and to score so many tries is a real achievement," he told BBC Sport.

"The players stood up in every aspect of the game and were magnificent. "We haven't been able to finish teams off away but we said: 'Tonight's the night, we do not come back into this changing room without winning here'. We put out nine players who are 23 or under and most of them only 21 - it's an incredible statistic for the province," added Williams.

"For 16 minutes of the second half we were one or two men down (Matt McCullough and Kieron Dawson were sinbinned) and in that period we had almost no possession. But we tackled our hearts out and they couldn't go through us, they had to go over us through a kick. Our defence has been the basis of our success but we want to play the ball in hand and have an off-loading game which takes time to come through. But we saw both aspects of the game here, a super defence and then we also attacked with courage and panache."

Munster: D. Hurley, Howlett, Tipoki, Mafi, Lewis, O'Gara, Stringer, Pucciariello, Flannery, Hayes, O'Callaghan, O'Driscoll, D. Ryan, Ronan, Williams.

Replacements: Murphy for Tipoki (41), Warwick for O'Gara (15), Prendergast for Stringer (68), T. Ryan for Pucciariello (60), Fogarty for Flannery (72), Coughlan for Williams (60). Not Used: Quinlan.

Ulster: Schifcofske, Trimble, Cave, Wallace, Nagusa, Humphreys, Boss, Court, Brady, Botha, McCullough, O'Donoghue, Ferris, Dawson, Diack.

Replacements: McCrea for Nagusa (13), Marshall for Boss (75), J. Fitzpatrick for Court (61), Best for Brady (68), Paulo for McCullough (57), Pollock for Dawson (68). Not Used: Steinmetz.

Att: 26,000

Ref: Alan Lewis (Ireland).


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