Pro14: Ulster 19-12 Munster
|Pro14: Ulster 19-12 Munster|
|Ulster (7) 19|
|Tries: Herring, Baloucoune, Shanahan Cons: Burns 2|
|Munster (3) 12|
|Pens: Hanrahan 2, Johnston 2|
Ulster got the better of Munster with a scrappy 19-12 Pro14 derby victory.
Robert Baloucoune, who narrowly avoided a first-minute red card, got the crucial try to clinch Ulster's fourth straight win across all competitions.
Rob Herring and Dave Shanahan also scored as the hosts gained a measure of revenge for their 57-point defeat at Thomond Park in September.
Replacement Bill Johnston kicked an injury-time penalty to earn a losing bonus point for Munster.
The victory helps Ulster move above Scarlets into second place in Conference B while Munster have reduced Glasgow's lead at the top of the Conference A standings to six points.
Ulster were fortunate not to play the entire game with just 14 men when Baloucoune was shown a yellow card after just 12 seconds.
Chasing Billy Burns' opening kick-off, the academy wing recklessly tackled Darren Sweetnam while he was still in the air and referee Sean Gallagher consulted with his TMO before sending Baloucoune to the sin bin.
Munster tried to make the most of their numerical advantage but JJ Hanrahan's opening score of the game arrived just as Baloucoune was making his return to the field.
The home side lost influential scrum-half John Cooney to a head injury in the 25th minute but they finished the half strongly as skipper Herring burst from the back of a powerful line-out maul to give his side a 7-3 lead at the break.
Best the playmaker
Munster closed to within a point of their hosts 10 minutes into the second half when Hanrahan punished a high tackle by Will Addison but that score prompted the introduction of Ulster's talisman Rory Best.
The influential hooker helped his side get back into the game and then produced a brilliant off load to create an overlap in the Munster defence that was exploited by James Hume and Shanahan to create the crucial try for the supporting Baloucoune.
Best was also instrumental in Ulster's final try as his short line-out throw set up a maul and the Ireland captain cleverly timed his pass to Shanahan on a switch line that allowed the scrum-half to dive over in the corner.
Munster deservedly salvaged a losing bonus point in stoppage time as Johnston held his nerve to score a long-range penalty.
'I've been there before!'
Ulster defence coach Jared Payne speaking to BBC Radio Ulster: "These inter-pros are always tough and it was never going to be an open affair against Munster so the way the boys stuck at it in the face of a bit of adversity at the start was good to see and it's always good to get a win.
On the Baloucoune yellow card: "I've been there before! I really felt for the poor guy but he'll learn from it hopefully. It's never nice to start a game with a yellow card so the resolve that he showed was great and it was good to see him get over the white line."
Ulster: Ludik; Speight, Addison, McCloskey, Baloucoune; Burns, Cooney; O'Sullivan, Herring (capt), Moore, Nagle, Treadwell; Reidy, Murphy, Coetzee.
Replacements: Best, McCall, Kane, Ross, Timoney, Shanahan, McPhillips, Hume.
Sin bin: Baloucoune (1)
Munster: Haley; Sweetnam, Arnold, Taute (capt), Wootton; Hanrahan, Mathewson; Loughman, O'Byrne, Archer, Kleyn, O'Shea; Wycherley, Oliver, Botha.
Replacements: Sherry, Kilcoyne, Parker, Coombes, O'Donnell, Cronin, Johnston, Daly.