MUNSTER BLEW a 17-point half-time lead as Ulster came back to beat Johann van Graan’s side 24-17 at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast.
Things had looked good for Munster at the break with two efforts from Niall Scannell and a penalty try helping them to a comfortable lead.
The game changed completely, however, on 58 minutes when Darren Cave crossed for an Ulster try and Sammy Arnold was then red carded for a high tackle on Christian Lealiifano that occurred earlier in the move after referee Sean Gallagher consulted with his TMO.
Ulster then took complete control to score three further tries that sealed a bonus-point victory for them.
Munster dominated the early exchanges and deservedly took the lead on 14 minutes after several Ulster lineout infringements.
The pressure eventually told on their defence as a dominant Munster maul decimated the Ulster defence and it was Scannell who came up with the ball when the bodies over the line cleared.
Munster’s set piece was causing Ulster a host of problems early on and it was a scrum penalty that soon had them deep in opposition territory again.
JJ Hanrahan kicked to touch and once Darren O’Shea took possession from Scannell’s throw, the result was inevitable. Again it was Scannell who grounded to put Munster 10-0 in front.
The Munster wave kept on coming as the first-half drew to a close and a powerful scrum effort broke Ulster’s resolve yet again.
Several penalties were awarded to Munster with them five metres from the line and once Kyle McCall stood up in yet another scrum, referee Gallagher awarded a penalty try that stretched Munster’s advantage to 17 points at the interval.
Ulster came out with all guns blazing on the restart with an excellent Cave break and offload to Charles Piutau putting them into the Munster ’22.
Several phases of Ulster attacking play eventually saw John Cooney dive over for a try but after checking with his TMO, Gallagher disallowed the try as he adjudged that Ulster flanker Greg Jones had obstructed John Ryan.
Ulster continued to ramp up the pressure and with Munster leaking penalties, Fineen Wycherley was shown a yellow card for persistent team infringements.
The home side kicked in the corner and with Lealiifano about to move the ball right after the lineout, he was hit by a big massive Arnold tackle.
Play continued with Lealiifano receiving treatment and Cave took advantage to run in from 22 metres.
Referee Gallagher checked the Arnold tackle with his TMO and made the decision to show the former Ulster centre a red card. Cooney then converted Cave’s try to cut Munster’s lead to 10 points with 58 minutes on the clock.
Les Kiss’ men were soon in for another score as Cave’s grubber kick was collected by Craig Gilroy just ahead of Stephen Fitzgerald. Cooney was unable to convert but Ulster were crucially back to within five points.
They then managed to level with six minutes remaining. An excellent change of direction by Cooney changed the point of attack and Lealiifano’s skip pass put Gilroy in for his second.
This time, Cooney bisected the posts with the touchline conversion to put Ulster ahead on a 19-17 scoreline. Rob Lyttle then added a bonus point try for Ulster in the final moments that sealed a remarkable comeback.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash, Keith Earls, Sammy Arnold, Alex Wootton; JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland (capt); Tommy O’Donnell, Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue; Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Rory Loughman, Stephen Archer, Fineen Wycherley, Robin Copeland, James Hart, Bill Johnston, Stephen Fitzgerald.
ULSTER: Charles Piutau; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle; Christian Lealiifano, John Cooney; Kyle McCall, Rob Herring, Rodney Ah You; Alan O’Connor; Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel; Replacements: Adam McBurney, Callum Black, Wiehan Herbst, Robbie Diack, Mattie Rea, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Andrew Trimble.
REFEREE: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)