Category: Archive

Ulster make ground on Munster

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

With both provinces fielding their strongest line-ups available, there was the customary sharp edge to the proceedings as Munster’s Donncha O’Callaghan appeared particularly fired up before his opposite number Justin Harrison was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Ronan O’Gara.
Later in the game, the home team’s center, Trevor Halstead, was fortunate not to have been sent off for a dangerous late challenge on David Humphreys, however, perhaps unsighted, the match officials didn’t even see fit to show him a yellow card.
Bouts of civil war aside, Ulster did require a last-ditch try-saving tackle by Paul Steinmetz on Anthony Horgan in the closing minutes to hold out, but on the balance of play, coach Mark McCall and his players deserved their victory.
The foundations were laid by a highly impressive first half performance that produced tries for Andrew Trimble and the excellent Tommy Bowe. A lead of 20-3 at the break might have been a slap in the face for Munster, but it was fully merited as Ulster made all the running.
“That first half display was very good,” said McCall. “I thought we defended very well, forced them into making mistakes and scored two very good tries. We then talked about continuing in the same vein and not just defending our lead, but then we went out and defended for the whole 40 minutes.”
However, McCall’s frustration was more down to Munster’s improvement than to any weakening of his own side’s resolve. “You get a good kick in the rear and get on with it,” said the losing captain Anthony Foley. Predictably, Munster came out and piled on the pressure and quickly closed the gap with tries by David Wallace and Jerry Flannery, and they had a chance to draw the game with a close-range penalty, but chose instead to go for the win.
“We’re hugely disappointed with the result, but we’ll take the performance,” explained coach Declan Kidney. “We went for the win at the start of the game, and we could have got a draw, but sometimes you’ve just go to hold your nerve and see these things through.”
There was no need for nerve in Galway where Leinster got the better of Connacht by 21-9, but thermal underwear for the attendance wouldn’t have been out of place.
Still, Connacht did much to warm their supporters during a first half in which they had Leinster under pressure. With the home forwards on top, Connacht were soon 9-3 in front, but just when they were in a position to drive home their advantage, Leinster struck for a magnificent try.
An audacious break-out started by Eric Miller, continued by Shane Horgan and Robert Kearney, and then finished off in style by the supporting Jamie Heaslip, was an all too rare glimpse of Leinster’s attacking class.
It was enough to give them a 13-9 advantage at the changeover, and if the second half was a largely dull affair, Leinster did manage to put together another scintillating back move, this time rounded off by Girvan Dempsey, for the game-winning score.
In the end, it was Leinster’s rapier that got the better of Connacht’s bludgeon with the winners’ international players making the difference.
“The most pleasing aspect was our defense and we have been working on that extensively,” said coach Michael Cheika. “But the credit must go to our Ireland players. I had asked them to stand up and show how good they were, and they provided the leadership.”
The result leaves Connacht rooted to the bottom of the table with just one win from nine games, while Leinster are in fourth place behind Munster, Ulster and Edinburgh.

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