Munster lose top spot
PRO14 REPORT: Ulster boosted their title credentials with a thrilling 38-17 Round 10 win over Irish rivals Munster at the Kingspan.
The Ulster’s win saw Munster knocked off the top of Conference B by Scarlets, who won at Cardiff Blues.
Shane Daly put Munster in front and Niall Scannell scored late on, but tries from John Cooney, Robert Baloucoune, Matty Rea, Stuart McCloskey and Jacob Stockdale were enough for the Belfast-based side to notch their seventh win of the season.
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The game started at a ferocious pace and the hosts demonstrated their desire to assert their authority from the off with an impressive line break from prop Jack McGrath.
But the three-time champions successfully weathered the first Ulster storm and were the first to strike when Daly bulldozed over in the corner with less than ten minutes on the clock.
Cooney got Dan McFarland’s men on the board with a penalty in the 15th minute, and three minutes later notched his eighth try of the season with a thrilling team score as Ulster edged their noses in front.
Ulster continued to press as the clock ticked towards half-time, and after Will Addison dropped the ball with the line at his mercy, Baloucoune capitalised on a period of sustained pressure to extend their advantage.
But with the break just seconds away, Munster regained some momentum as Joey Carbery kicked three points with the last play, thus reducing the deficit to seven points.
Ulster hit back early in the second half however, Rea slipping through the Munster defence following a line-out to put his side firmly in the driving seat with 42 minutes gone.
Having come within inches of the bonus-point score four minutes later, Ulster eventually got their fourth through McCloskey three minutes shy of the hour, leaving their opponents with plenty of work to do.
And Stockdale made matters worse moments later with a fantastic breakaway score, intercepting a loose pass to go over for his first Pro14 try since January 2019.
Scannell powered over for the visitors to give the Munstermen some hope with 15 minutes left on the clock, but Ulster ultimately proved good value for the win.
Man of the match – Stuart McCloskey
Plenty of the home XV was worthy of recognition with each of the back row, and John Cooney, proving invaluable to the 2005/06 champions.
But McCloskey was undoubtedly the standout star, showcasing a dominant performance both in attack and defence, which he topped off with a deserved score.
Play of the Day
There were several thrilling passages of play to choose from in this enthralling encounter, but Cooney’s 18th-minute try was very easy on the eye and truly burst his team into life.
Shane Daly’s high kick was taken impressively by Will Addison and as the ball spread wide, Jacob Stockdale found a gap before teeing up Cooney expertly who – in typical fashion – made no mistake.
Tries: Cooney, Baloucoune, Rea, McCloskey, Stockdale
Cons: Cooney 5
Tries: Daly, Scannell
Cons: Carbery 2
Yellow cards: Chris Cloete (Munster, 74), Kyle McCall (Ulster, 78)
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matthew Rea, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Greg Jones, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jack O’Donoghue, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Gavin Coombes, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Chris Cloete.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Mike English (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Report by @PRO14Official