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Van Graan era ends in a whimper as Ulster ease past Munster

By PA
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Two first-half tries from full-back Stewart Moore helped Ulster book their place in the United Rugby Championship semi-final after convincingly beating Irish rivals Munster 36-17 at the Kingspan Stadium.

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The home side’s accuracy and skills gave them the result as 100-cap man John Cooney, Nick Timoney and James Hume also touched down in an interprovincial clash which Ulster led 19-7 at half-time.

Cooney kicked three conversions and a penalty as the hosts avenged losing to Munster in Belfast during the regular season.

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Ulster will now face either the Stormers or Edinburgh in the semi-finals, while Munster’s season is over after another quarter-final exit, with Johann van Graan’s tenure coming to a disappointing end.

Nine minutes in, Cooney got on the end of a pass from Hume to score and convert his own effort.

Munster struck back on 18 minutes after the visitors launched a multi-phase attack which ended up with Gavin Coombes held short, before Jean Kleyn collected the ball off his boot to score. Joey Carbery converted and the scores were level.

Ulster then scored a superb try off a line-out when Robert Baloucoune – who had previously landed a try-saving tackle on Carbery – was put through and Ethan McIlroy then offloaded for Moore to touch down after 23 minutes. Cooney again converted.

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Moore scored his second after 32 minutes following a strong Iain Henderson carry which prompted Ulster to again put pace and width on the ball. Hume’s long pass gave Moore his chance and he made the corner with the TMO awarding the effort. Cooney missed the extras.

Two minutes into the second half Ulster had their fourth try, Hume bursting through and drawing the cover before hitting Nick Timoney, whose pace took him clear. Cooney’s conversion made it 26-7.

Coombes then had a charge-down score ruled out by the TMO, but Munster did get on the scoreboard in the 51st minute through a spectacular finish in the corner from Keith Earls, though Carbery failed to convert.

A Henderson turnover gave Cooney a penalty shot which he slotted after 56 minutes. Four minutes later, Hume made his way over the line, with substitute Nathan Doak converting.

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Earls ran in for a second with 11 minutes remaining, but the conversion was missed and the game had already got away from Munster.

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