MUNSTER are left to count the cost of their disappointing 29-19 RaboDirect PRO12 defeat to Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday night with three more players picking up injuries which make them doubtful starters for next weekend’s Heineken Cup clash with Gloucester.
Second row Donncha O’Callaghan, scrum-half Cathal Sheridan and hooker Damien Varley were all forced off the pitch with injuries during a dramatic inter-pro clash which ended in Munster’s first defeat in 10 games. O’Callaghan and Sheridan who picked up knee strains and Varley, who sustained a foot injury, are in a race against time to be fit for next Saturday’s round five Heineken Cup clash at Kingsholm.
Ulster’s South African scrum half Ruan Pienaar kicked 19 points as Ulster consigned PRO12 leaders Munster to just their second defeat of the campaign.
The home side, boosted by sparkling tries by Jared Payne and Darren Cave, had led 20-0, before centre Ivan Dineen got a touchdown for Munster just before half-time.
Loosehead Dave Kilcoyne and number eight James Coughlan scored Munster’s tries in the second half from well-executed mauls.
But Munster were left to rue a string of missed kicks by fly-half Ian Keatley, who had an evening to forget. The Munster number 10 was wide of the target with three penalties and a conversion in the first half.
Ulster, so disappointed with their display against Leinster in Dublin six days earlier, move up to third on the back of this victory.
However, it was far from straightforward as, at one stage Munster were trailing just 23-19 in what was an absorbing contest. A further Pienaar penalty helped Ulster pull seven points clear. However, from yet another powerful maul, Munster surged over the line once again, only for referee Rolland to award a scrum to the visitors, ruling the ball was held up. Afterwards Munster coach Penney was adamant the referee should have looked to the TMO to rule on the matter.
And adding to Munster’s sense of frustration late on, Pienaar deprived the visitors of a losing bonus point when he kicked his final penalty in the last minute with Paul O’Connell sin-binned.
SCORERS: Ulster: Darren Cave, Jared Payne try each, Ruan Pienaar five pens, two cons. Munster: James Coughlan, Ivan Dineen, Dave Kilcoyne tries each, Ian Keatley two cons.
ULSTER: Jared Payne; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rob Herring, John Afoa, Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack (capt), Chris Henry, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Niall Annett, Callum Black, Declan Fitzpatrick, Lewis Stevenson, Nick Williams, Sean Doyle.
MUNSTER: Felix Jones; Andrew Conway, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Cathal Sheridan; David Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell, James Coughlan. Replacements used: Duncan Casey, John Ryan, BJ Botha, David Foley, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Johne Murphy.
REFEREE: Alain Rolland (Ireland)