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Ulster show Celtic spirit | Print |  Email
Monday, 06 March 2006

By Darragh Cox

Ulster scored five tries and demolished a heavily understrength Munster side to jump ahead of their Irish rivals at the head of the Celtic League table.

Munster, without almost all their Irish internationals, were at least able to welcome out-half Paul Burke back from injury to cover the absent Ronan O'Gara. Burke showed his next club, Leicester, what they can expect next season, with a fine penalty conversion in the opening exchanges after some dissent from Ulster scrum-half Isaac Boss.

This, amazingly, was as good as it got all day for the visitors to Ravenhill, as the home side, led by the inventive Boss and the intelligent David Humphreys, quickly got on top and took control of proceedings. It was Humphreys' optimistic kick across the Munster line that offered winger Tommy Bowe, dropped from the Irish panel before the Welsh match, a chance to give himself a timely confidence booster. He duly accepted it after firstly challenging the Munster back attempting to field the kick, and then pouncing on the resulting fumble to touch down.

Humphreys, who had an unusually poor place-kicking night missed the conversion and would, in fact, only land one of the five conversion chances presented to him. Ulster had plenty of opportunities to break Munster down again but some typically tough Munster forward play kept Mark McCall's side out until just before the break.

A number of Ulster recycles created the opportunity to open up space on the open side and replacement scrum-half Kieran Campbell fed Humphreys and he picked out Roger Wilson, via Paul Steinmetz, with sheer strength taking the number eight over the line for a 10-3 half-time lead.

Munster, with the hard-working Mossie Lawlor sprung from the bench, tried to get back in touch but a superb last ditch tackle from Justin Harrison foiled their best attempt and when Ulster came back up field to register their third try, Munster were forced into a damage limitation exercise to try and prevent Ulster securing a bonus point-earning fourth try, as their own hopes of a bonus point evaporated.

Steinmetz got Ulster's third try and Humphreys easily converted, and the home side thought they got in for the all-important fourth try when Johnny Bell dashed for the corner and crashed over with a couple of Munster players. That score was disallowed, with the touch judge claiming Bell went into touch but Ulster were not to be denied and some constant forward pressure in the maul eventually broke Munster's resolve and Harrison was credited with the touch down as the pack stormed over the line. Substitute Neil McMillan rubbed salt in Munster's wounds with a fifth try as his side commandingly took control of the Celtic League summit.

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