STUTTERING Munster face a date with in-form Glasgow Warriors in the semi-final of the RaboDirect PRO12 on Friday next in Scotstoun after Rob Penney’s men stumbled to a disappointing 19-17 defeat to an understrength Ulster side at Thomond Park this Saturday evening.
Munster, unbackable favourites at 1/40 to win the game before kick-off, contributed handsomely to their own downfall, making a large number of unforced errors in wet and blustery conditions.
The home side built a useful 10-0 lead on 15 minutes of Rob Penney’s final home game as Munster coach, with scrum-half Duncan Williams scampering over for a well-worked try, which Ian Keatley converted to add to his earlier penalty goal.
Crucially, Munster allowed their visitors right back into the game almost immediately when Ulster scrum-half Michael Heaney darted over for a 17th minute try. Ulster racked up 13 unanswered points to lead 13-10 after 46 minutes, with out-half James McKinney kicking two penalty goals.
Munster appeared to have regained the initiative when back-row Sean Dougall scored an opportunist try on 48 minutes which Keatley converted. However, Munster’s 17-13 lead was short-lived as two further penalty goals from McKinney helped Ulster complete a PRO12 double over Munster this season.
The home side was let to rue their decision to turn down a kickable penalty award in the 72nd minute, instead opting for a scrum which failed to produce a third Munster try. Replacement out-half JJ Hanrahan also had the opportunity to snatch victory for Munster in stoppage time, but he was off target with a penalty attempt from half-way.
Munster will face Glasgow Warriors in their PRO12 semi-final at Scotstoun Stadium on Friday next at 7.35pm. Leinster will host Ulster in the second semi-final at the RDS on Saturday at 7pm.
SCORERS - Munster: Duncan Williams, Sean Dougall try each, Ian Keatley one pen, two cons. Ulster: Michael Heaney try, James McKinney con, four pens.
MUNSTER - Felix Jones; Gerhard van den Heever, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley (capt), John Ryan, David Foley, Paul O’Connell, Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, James Cronin, Alan Cotter, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Conor Murray, JJ Hanrahan, Keith Earls.
ULSTER - Craig Gilroy; David McIlwaine, Michael Allen, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes; James McKinney, Michael Heaney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Tuohy (capt), Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams. Replacements: Kyle McCall, Bronson Ross, Adam Macklin, Neil McComb, Conor Joyce, David Shanahan, Ricky Andrew, Peter Nelson.
REFEREE - Nigel Owens (Wales)