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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 14:47 GMT
Munster squeeze past Ulster
Ulster centre Ryan Constable
Ulster's Ryan Constable cuts through Munster defence
Munster 15-9 Ulster

Munster scrambled a victory over their provincial rivals Ulster at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.

There was not a try in sight as the Munstermen booked their spot to face Leinster in the inaugural Celtic League decider at the same venue.

The game was decided by the boot of respective Ireland fly-half rivals.

Ronan O'Gara did the needful for Munster with five penalties and David Humphreys contributing three for Ulster.

Ulster prop Justin Fitzpatrick runs into Munster captain Mick Galwey
Fitzpatrick runs into Munster skipper Galwey
It was in the first period that Munster strangled the life out of Ulster with their rock-solid pack rumbling around the park with regal dominance.

It was only in the dying embers of the game, that Ulster's famous fitness clicked into gear and put big pressure on Munster.

But although tiring, Munster managed to hold out in the end for a victory they just about deserved in face of a very brave Ulster side.

Munster were never flashy and with a simple game plan ran rough-shod over Ulster in that first period.

Playing a simple forward-orientated game, they had the Ulster pack on the back foot for most of a fairly forgettable opening 40 minutes.

It was 35 minutes before Ulster ventured into the Munster ''22'' by which time they were 9-0 in arrears, and lucky not to be more as they were being completely starved of possession.


But all credit to Ulster whose defence was stretched for one very pressurised period midway through the half, but turned around only six points in arrears.

Ulster started promisingly in the second half with Humphreys cutting the leeway to 9-6.

But again, too many mistakes and the well-organised Munster defence meant Ulster were again feeding off scraps.

However, it was credit to Ulster that even when they lost hooker Paul Shields to the sin-bin, that they never gave in.

Two more penalties from O'Gara took Munster further ahead midway the half, before Ulster dug deep to make a real game of it near the end.

Munster flanker Alan Quinlan
Munster's Alan Quinlan on a charge

Replacement Ryan Constable cut a swathe through the Munster defence, but his pass was grounded by Tyrone Howe with the line in sight.

Humphreys then narrowed the gap with his third penalty with two minutes of injury time played.

Howe was again involved in another try-scoring chance as the game meandered further into injury time after searing break by Humphreys.

But once again, the try-line was left undisturbed as Jeremy Staunton brought the move, and the game, to an exhillarating halt.

Ulster: Pens: Humphreys (3).

Munster: Pens: O'Gara (5).

Att: 10,000.

Ulster: P Wallace; S Coulter, A Larkin, J Bell, T Howe; D Humphreys, N Doak; J Fitzpatrick, P Shields, S Best, G Longwell, M Blair, T McWhirter, A Ward, capt, R Nelson.
Replacements: N McMillan for Mcmillan (63), P Johns for Blair (40), R Constable for Larkin (55).

Munster: D Crotty; J Kelly, J Holland, M Mullins, A Horgan; R O'Gara, P Stringer; M Horan, F Sheahan, P Clohessy, M Galwey (capt), P O'Connell, J Williams, A Quinlan, A Foley.
Replacements: J Staunton for Crotty (71), M Cahill for Horan (75), M O'Driscoll for O'Connell (80).

Referee: Ian Ramage (Scotland).

Ulster fly-half David Humphreys
''We just could not break down their defence''
Michael Corcoran reports for BBC Sport
"Ulster could have stolen the match"
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