Ulster 21-14 Munster: Hosts beat holders after second-half comeback

Jacob Stockdale scores a try
Jacob Stockdale's try got Ulster back into the game after Munster made a fast start in Belfast

URC: Ulster v Munster

Ulster (8) 21

Tries: Stockdale, Timoney Con: Doak Pens: Doak 3

Munster (14) 14

Tries: Casey 2 Con: Crowley 2

Ulster produced a second-half comeback to end Munster's unbeaten start to the defence of their United Rugby Championship title with a 21-14 win.

Craig Casey scored two tries in the first half before Jacob Stockdale responded for the hosts, who trailed 14-8 at the break.

Nathan Doak kicked Ulster level and Nick Timoney's try with 11 minutes left put the hosts ahead.

Munster crossed the Ulster line in the final minute but the ball was held up.

More superb Ulster defence held their Irish rivals out into the red and, after winning a penalty to seal the match, the home players fell on to their knees and backs after a titanic effort to keep the URC holders at bay.

After sustained Munster pressure in the early stages, with penalty advantage after penalty advantage, Casey scampered over off the back of a scrum to dot down in the ninth minute, and Crowley added the conversion from the tee.

Ulster almost immediately responded when Ethan McIlroy burst though on a penalty advantage but, under pressure from a number of red jerseys, the full-back dropped the ball over the line.

McIlroy required treatment after a heavy knock to his head as he dived to the line and, thankfully, was able to walk off after the stretcher was quickly called for.

Craig Casey scores a try
Craig Casey scored two first-half tries for Munster

Shane Daly was sent to the bin for his involvement in the tackle, and Doak knocked over the simple penalty to get Ulster on the board.

Despite their man disadvantage, Munster came again and more sustained pressure told when Casey burrowed over for his second try of the game on 18 minutes. Ireland fly-half Crowley again converted from the tee.

Despite struggling against the power of the visitors, Ulster responded as Stockdale continued his fine start to the season when he collected Billy Burns' kick to the corner and raced over the line. Doak could not land the difficult conversion as Ulster trailed by 14-8 at the break.

Ulster hit back in second half

In a contrast to the first half, it was Ulster who came out of the traps the quicker after the restart and Doak nudged the home side side to within three points of the visitors when he kicked a penalty.

McFarland introduced returning Ireland duo Iain Henderson and Rob Herring, who became Ulster's most-capped player, 10 minutes into the second half to being plenty of experience into the home pack.

A marauding run by Henderson almost saw Doak break clear but he was smothered by red jerseys.

The hosts then spurned a great opportunity after kicking a penalty to the corner when Herring was penalised for a dummy throw.

However, Ulster drew level on 63 minutes when Doak struck a superb long-range penalty after Munster were penalised at the breakdown.

Ulster had the wind in their sails and Rob Baloucoune thought he had touched down in the corner after Dave Ewers took a quick throw, but referee Frank Murphy brought play back.

But the hosts made the pressure count with 11 minutes to play when Nick Timoney bundled his way over off the back of a scrum. Doak kicked the conversion in his final act before being replaced by the returning John Cooney.

Munster pummelled the home try line in search for a crucial score but Henderson managed to get under the ball to hold Scott Buckley up over the line.

Graham Rowntree's side came again but Herring, on his landmark appearance, won the decisive turnover that secured the game for Ulster.

Ulster: Ethan McIlroy, Rob Baloucoune, Stewart Moore, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak; Eric O'Sullivan, Tom Stewart (capt), Greg McGrath; Cormac Izuchukwu, Kieran Treadwell; Marcus Rea, David McCann, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Callum Reid, Rob Herring, Scott Wilson, Iain Henderson, Dave Ewers, John Cooney, Jake Flannery, Ben Moxham, Jude Postlethwaite.

Munster: Shane Daly; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Alex Nankivell, Seán O'Brien; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Diarmuid Barron (capt), John Ryan; Edwin Edogbo, Fineen Wycherley; Alex Kendellen, John Hodnett, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Scott Buckley, Josh Wycherley, Stephen Archer, Tom Ahern, Brian Gleeson, Paddy Patterson, Rory Scannell, Ben O'Connor.