Pro12: Ulster 23-23 Munster

By Richard PetrieBBC Sport NI
Iain Henderson denied Keith Earls a try
Iain Henderson denies Keith Earls a try
Ulster(10) 23
Tries: Bowe, P Marshall Cons: Jackson 2 Pens: Jackson 3
Munster(9) 23
Tries: Earls Pens: Keatley 6

A dramatic late try by Paul Marshall gave 14-man Ulster a draw against Munster, who retain the more realistic hope of a home Pro12 semi-final.

Marshall touched down in injury-time, with Paddy Jackson converting.

Tommy Bowe's try towards the end of the first half saw Ulster recover from nine points down to lead 10-9.

Iain Henderson was sent-off for careless use of the head late in the game and a Keith Earls try had looked to have won the game for Munster.

The result sees Munster join the Ospreys and Glasgow on 70 points at the top of the Pro12 standings, with Ulster in fourth, a point behind their rivals.

The final series of games next Saturday will decide which sides will enjoy home advantage in the semi-final play-offs on 23 May.

The two Irish provinces came into the interprovincial derby with impressive records, having both suffered just one defeat in their previous eight Pro12 games.

Munster boasted the best away record in the competition, while Ulster had won all 10 of their home league fixtures, accumulating 44 points on their home patch in the process.

Munster suffered an early setback when flanker Tommy O'Donnell went off injured but were rewarded for their early superiority when Ian Keatley kicked the ball between the posts for his first penalty.

Henderson denied Earls a certain try when he halted his fellow Ireland international as he attacked the Ulster line in the 18th minute.

Backed by a capacity crowd, the home side produced the more enterprising attacking play but were unable to find their way through a well organised Munster defence.

Pro12 table

Simon Zebo became the second visiting player to leave the field through injury, Ronan O'Mahony entering the fray as his replacement, but Keatley added further penalties in the 31st and 37th minutes to extend his side's advantage.

A Jackson penalty in the final minute of the first half gave Ulster their first points of the match and the fly-half then converted Bowe's well-taken try in injury-time to give his side an unlikely one-point lead at the interval.

The outstanding Henderson completed a fine series of passes by cleverly offloading to Bowe, who weaved his way through the Munster defence, evading a number of attempted tackles before diving over the line.

Jackson's second penalty five minutes after the break put four points between the sides but Keatley's straightforward kick from in front of the posts reduced the deficit.

Keatley maintained his 100% record with the boot by sending over his fifth penalty on the hour, but soon after Bowe failed to take advantage of a good opportunity with a wasteful pass after collecting Ruan Pienaar's subtle inside pass.

Keatley and Jackson traded further penalties, before the hosts squandered another try-scoring chance when second row Dan Tuohy opted to kick close to the Munster line, with better passing options outside him.

Ulster were reduced to 14 men with seven minutes remaining when Henderson was adjudged to have led with his head in a careless and reckless manner against O'Mahony at a ruck.

Three minutes later Earls stepped inside Louis Ludik and touched down for his fifth try of the season in the right corner, a score which seemed enough to secure victory for his side.

Yet Ulster fought back to secure a potentially precious two points as Marshall crossed the line in the left corner after meeting Jackson's incisive pass, following sustained pressure on their opponents' line.

Jackson added the conversion from a difficult angle to maintain Ulster's unbeaten home record and retain some hope of a home game in the last four, before their final match of the regular season away to Glasgow next week.

Ulster: L Ludik; T Bowe, J Payne, D Cave, P Nelson; P Jackson, R Pienaar; C Black, R Best (capt), W Herbst, D Tuohy, F van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, R Wilson.

Replacements: R Herring, A Warwick, B Ross, R Diack, C Ross, P Marshall, I Humphreys, S McCloskey.

Munster: F Jones; K Earls, A Smith, Denis Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, E Guinazu, S Archer; D Ryan, P O'Connell; P O'Mahony (capt),T O'Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, John Ryan, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Jack O'Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Ronan O'Mahony.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

Attendance: 18,196