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Munster overcome Simon Zebo red card to edge Ulster

By PA
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A gritty backs-to-the-wall effort saw Munster overcome Simon Zebo’s early sending-off to defeat Ulster 18-13 in the United Rugby Championship at Thomond Park.

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Zebo was red-carded for a high tackle in the 15th minute and Ulster, with Rob Herring having earlier touched down, sensed a first victory in Limerick since May 2014.

Two Nathan Doak penalties, in response to a couple of Jack Crowley three-pointers, had the visitors leading 13-6 until Munster rallied.

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Inspired by Tadhg Beirne, the men in red closed the gap with a Mike Haley try before replacement Alex Kendellen scored the match winner with five minutes remaining.

Beirne came in late to captain Munster on his 30th birthday, standing in for Peter O’Mahony who was withdrawn following the warm-up, while Kendellen had been drafted in to take Beirne’s place on the bench.

Following two recent postponements, Ulster’s eager forwards delivered a seventh-minute maul try for Herring, which John Cooney converted.

Munster suffered an even bigger blow when Zebo’s shoulder made contact with the face of Ulster full-back Mike Lowry. TMO Brian MacNeice’s input led to referee Mike Adamson reaching for his red card.

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Strong carries from John Hodnett and Thomas Ahern sparked a furious Munster spell near the Ulster line. Crowley popped over a penalty and added a second one after Sam Carter was slow to roll away.

However, Doak, who replaced the injured Cooney, made it 10-6 just before half-time and Ulster exerted maul pressure again on the resumption.

Ahern thwarted Dan McFarland’s men with two impressive line-out steals, before a big Tom O’Toole-led scrum set up a long-range penalty from Doak for 13-6.

The numbers were evened up when Ulster replacement Kieran Treadwell was sin-binned for a tip tackle on Shane Daly. Munster immediately took advantage, Craig Casey’s superb long pass putting Haley over out wide.

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Crowley hit the post with the difficult conversion from the right and Doak was short with a monster penalty attempt.

Ultimately, Munster showed the greater hunger, led by the brilliant Beirne, whose breakdown smarts were a key factor throughout.

Replacement Jack O’Donoghue wriggled through into the 22, Fineen Wycherley was stopped short, but the ball popped back for a well-placed Kendellen to score and Ben Healy converted.

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M
Mzilikazi 3 hours ago
Is the Six Nations balance of power shifting?

An hugely interesting article. Thanks, Nick. Some seem to find this a poor 6 N, but I think it has thrown up a number of fascinating contests. Ofc the falling away of France is always going to be a major point of discussion. The loss of both half backs has hurt them for sure. But they should still be better. Both France and England could easily have been sitting with three defeats right now, especially France. In England’s case, I thought the try Mitchell scored against the Italians was lucky, as he was clearly held in the tackle , but carried on to the line without releasing and regaining the ball. The English blitz defence being talked about so much is still a work in progress, and Ireland, with their powerful men in both backs and forwards can do damage there. I also thought in last weekends game against Scotland, England were pushingtheir luck at the breakdowns, turning them into a chaotic brawl. A different referee may not see it their way so much against Ireland and France. Ireland’s front row does concern me. The starters have not always looked in control, and Andrew Porter is a worry, as he will now be very closely watched in these next two games. Tadgh Furlong is not the player he was at the set piece, and will need to be on his mettle against the very streetwise Genge at Twickenham. I really enjoyed the stats heavy approach in this article. So much that passes one by are brought starkly into the light of day. Finn Russell’s deadly accuracy, the significance of the Welsh backrow duo, Italy’s attacking drop of under a new coach, as they are coming much closer to winning in these games this year.

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