Tries from Matt Faddes and Ethan McIlroy ensure Ulster’s winning run in the league extends to ten games with a 15-10 victory over Conference B leaders Munster.
Dominant in the first half, Ulster were 12-3 up after 16 minutes before John Cooney concluded Ulster’s scoring shortly before the half hour mark. The Red Hand province threatened to pull away but Munster hung in and came away with a losing bonus point thanks to a try in the last play from Darren Sweetnam.
Ulster (15) 15
TRY: Matt Faddes, Ethan McIlroy
CON: John Cooney
PEN: John Cooney
Munster (3) 10
TRY: Darren Sweetnam
CON: Jack Crowley
PEN: Ben Healy
A fast start put Ulster two tries up and in control of the game. The forwards were winning the collisions while Billy Burns was a threat from out half and beat four defenders last night. James Hume delivered a fantastic pass to Jacob Stockdale which put the fullback in space and took left winger Liam Coombes out of the question. Stockdale fed Faddes for the night’s opening score.
I think it is a matter of time before the cross kick becomes a registered trademark of Billy Burns as McIlroy became the latest benificiary of it on 16 minutes. That’s Billy’s first try assist in his third appearance this season. At this point, it looked like it was a matter of when, not if, Ulster scored the bonus point try. Munster had very little possession while their defence was quite passive which suited Ulster’s direct attacking but for the rest of the first half, the game was played between the two 22m lines with neither side having many try scoring opportunities.
The second half wasn’t much better, Ulster had a golden opportunities to kick on and kill the game off as the hour mark ticked over with Billy Holland sent to the sin bin for an accumulation of team infringements. Camped in the Munster 22, Chris Cloete turned the ball over as Munster eased through the sin bin period with no damage done on the scoreboard. An uncharacteristic combination of poor ball protection and decision making foiled any opportunities Ulster had in the second half.
Kieran Treadwell knocked on while reaching to place the ball over the line, however it appeared that Ulster had men over out wide, while a pass to Nick Timoney would have given him enough space to power over from close range. Either one of Timoney or Faddes would have scored that try if they had been released the ball. Ulster got out of jail as play was brought back for another Munster infringement.
Ulster ended the game camped on their own line before debutant Callum Reid was sent to the sin bin after the clock had ticked red. After successive penalties, Munster got their try through Sweetnam and will be happy to leave Ravenhill with a losing bonus point. There were questions about a knock on, but as the on field decision by referee Mike Adamson was ‘try’, TMO Joy Neville needed to show the ref clear evidence of a knock on to overturn his decision, which which she could not due to the camera angles available and therefore the try stood.
Who stood out?
Ethan McIlroy received the man of the match award from Premier Sports, scoring a try and putting in a try saving tackle at the end of the first half on Shane Daly. The ex-Methody man was very safe under the high ball, even with Munster seemingly targetting him with box kicks.
In the back row, Nick Timoney recorded another two turnovers while David McCann was assured in what was his first senior start for the province. The Banbridge player was tenacious in defence even though he didn’t get many opportunities to poach, and averaged 3.2 metres over his 11 carries. It won’t be too long until McCann is a regular fixture in this Ulster side.
Debutants Callum Reid and Nathan Doak played 31 and 15 minutes respectively with Reid receiving a yellow card towards the end of the game. Doak didn’t get enough time to make any impression while his prop made a couple of solid carries.
Where now for Ulster?
I was bemoaning a lack of bonus point last night at the conclusion of the game and still maintain that one was there for the taking. However, Connacht’s emphatic win over Leinster in the RDS – their first win at Leinster since 2002 – leaves Ulster in a healthy position.
The job is not done though and while we can go down to Dublin with confidence, Dan McFarland will be emphasising that to make Connacht’s win count, they need to back it up with another win which would put the pool firmly in Ulster’s hands.
What could be crucial, is the Sweetnam try at the end which sealed a losing bonus point for his side, as whoever has the most points between the two conference leaders at the end, receives home advantage in the final.
As it stands, Ulster remain the only undefeated team in the league:.