Munster Academy (0) 21
TRY: Colm Hogan (2), Gavin Coombes. CON: Conor Fitzgerald.
Ulster Academy (18) 18
TRY: Aaron Cairns, Adam McBurney. PEN: Johnny McPhillips (2). CON: Johnny McPhillips.

Ulster Academy raced to an 0 – 18 lead at halftime against their Munster counterparts. Unfortunately another second half capitulation saw them concede 21 unanswered points in the second half to lose this game 21- 18 at Thomond Park on Friday evening. 

It’s the second game on the bounce where they have failed to score in the second half, but perhaps more worryingly they have conceded a grand total of 48 points in the final forty minutes over the two Inter-provincial matches!  

It all started so well with Johnny McPhillips knocking over an early penalty before Aaron Cairns scored a fine individual effort, catching everyone on the hop with a quick break down the right. McPhillips missed the conversion but Ulster led 0 – 8 after 13 minutes. 

Munster came back into the game and spent a considerable amount of time pounding the Ulster line, however the Ulster defence was impressive and when the visitors did break up field they looked much more clinical than their counterparts.. 

A good midfield break by John Donnan led to another penalty, which duly dispatched by McPhillips on the half hour mark, and Ulster dominated the final ten minutes of the first half and again turned their pressure into points as Adam McBurney touched down off the back of an impressive driving maul on the 38th minute. McPhillips slotted this one over and Ulster led 0 – 18 as the teams turned round. 

Ulster faded as quickly as the light in the second half. The third quarter was spent almost entirely in defence and the pressure eventually told with Munster captain Colm Hogan leading by example to get Munster on the scoreboard. Outhalf Conor Fitzgerald added the extras and it was game on at 7 – 18. 

Unfortunately Ulster seemed content to defend their lead, but the Munser youngsters had their tails up and the crowd could sense a win.

Ulster did break out, as they did in the first half, but the slick play of earlier had been replaced by panic and Munster made their lack of composure pay with late scores from Gavin Coombes and Hogan for his second. Fitzgerald converted both to give the hosts an unlikely 21 – 18 win. 

The failure of the Ulster youngsters to push on in the second half was disappointing, but all credit to Munster who raised their game considerably. 

Ulster Academy: Conor Kelly, Conor Field,  Rory Butler, Callum Smith, Ollie Brown, Johnny McPhillips, Aaron Cairns, Michael Lagan, Adam McBurney, Peter Cooper, Alex Thompson, John Donnan, Nick Timoney, Lorcan Dow, Marcus Rea. Replacements: Zac McCall, Tom O’Hagan, Craig Trenier, Connor Smyth, Zac Jordan, Jonny Stewart, Andrew Magrath, Lewis Sampson, Matthew Rea. 

With Connacht not fielding a team in this competition I’m afraid thats it for this Academy/Under 20’s mish mash and in all honesty it’s not been a success. It’s been brought in to give academy players more game time at the expense of reducing U20 squads but with up to eleven substitutions the games have more of the feel of a trial match rather than a proper game. It’s yet another strange decision by our Australian overlords at the IRFU who seem to have little empathy for the long standing tradition these interprovincial age grade challenges have. It’s also a dangerous decision given that the Ireland U20’s have just had their most successful World Rugby U20 Championship! 

Lighting conditions were very poor at Thomond so the pics below are a touch grainey!