MUNSTER’S unbeaten start in the United Rugby Championship (URC) came to a halt when Ulster came from 11 points adrift to secure victory, 21-12, at Kingspan Stadium, Belfast.
It was a hotly contested affair which swung one way and then the other, but it was Ulster who secured success with their second try in the final quarter and Munster had to be content with a losing bonus point.
Munster, on a night when Diarmuid Barron captained the team for the first time (and departed through a HIA) and 25-year-old Fineen Wycherley made his 100th appearance, led by 14-8 at the interval.
Scrum-half Craig Casey crossed for both Munster tries, getting them off the mark after five minutes when he sniped over after good pressure.
Jack Crowley added the conversion, but Ulster hit back and Nathan Doak got them off the mark with a penalty after Shane Daly picked up a yellow card for a collision with his opposite number Ethan McIlroy.
The men in red increased their lead while temporarily down to 14 men with Casey again managing to squeeze through to score. Crowley’s conversion from the left made it 14-3 after 18 minutes.
Ulster reduced the margin before the break when Jacob Stockdale scored in the left corner after collecting a cross kick from Billy Burns. The northern province got back on level terms early into the third quarter after a couple of penalties from Doak.
Both teams created good opportunities in a well-contested encounter, but it was Ulster who hit the front foot 13 minutes from time when Nick Timoney got over from a scrum and Doak pushed the lead out to seven with the conversion.
Munster piled on the pressure in the closing moments but while they got over the line they were unable to ground the ball and Ulster held on for victory.
Munster: Shane Daly, Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Alex Nankivell (Rory Scannell, 59), Seán O’Brien (Ben O’Connor, 66), Jack Crowley, Craig Casey (Paddy Patterson, 72), Jeremy Loughman (Josh Wycherley, 50), Diarmuid Barron (Scott Buckley, 52), John Ryan (Stephen Archer, 50), Edwin Edogbo (Tom Ahern, 50), Fineen Wycherley; Alex Kendellen (Brian Gleeson, 50), John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.