Paul Steinmetz gave Ulster the perfect start at Ravenhill
Ulster: (21) 21
Tries: Steinmetz, Wilson, Trimble
Cons: Humphreys (3)
Munster: (3) 24
Tries: Halstead, O'Sullivan, Carney
Cons: Hickey, Manning (2)
Ulster's hopes of retaining the Magners League title suffered a blow as an understrength Munster won in Belfast.
The hosts looked on course for victory when Paul Steinemetz, Roger Wilson and Andrew Trimble tries helped them to a 21-3 lead at the break.
But Munster, minus their Ireland stars, hit back in a storming second half.
Trevor Halstead and John O'Sullivan went over before former rugby league player Brian Carney scored a late match-winning try for the visitors.
Ulster's intent had been to top the table outright overnight, ahead of
Leinster's game with Connacht on Saturday, but their losing bonus point puts
them on equal points with Michael Cheika's side.
Tommy Bowe came close to scoring in the seventh minute and only a great
covering tackle from Christian Cullen prevented the home side from getting out
of the traps early.
But Ulster were not to be denied and a minute after Cullen's heroics,
Trimble found Steinmetz on a cutback run off the left wing and the Kiwi
burst through to score under the posts and give David Humphreys a
The visitors' cause was further damaged by the sinbinning of prop Tony Buckley
after a fracas with Justin Harrison from the restart.
Ulster used the 10 minutes well by producing a score from Wilson, again converted off the
upright by Humphreys, to give them a 14-0 lead after 20 minutes.
With Munster restored to their full complement, Eoghan Hickey managed their
first points from a penalty but the home side immediately struck back when, from
a scrum, Humphreys put Trimble clear though referee Allain Rolland failed to
notice a blatant forward pass from Ulster's outside half.
With Humphreys adding his third conversion Ulster now led 21-3 and looked odds
on to secure a bonus point.
Five minutes after the restart, O'Sullivan's gut-busting break from his own 22 set up a try for Halstead and with Hickey's conversion Munster - missing virtually their entire
first-choice side - had closed Ulster's lead to 21-10.
Three minutes after the hour, the crucial score arrived after Paddy Wallace
carried the ball over his line under pressure from the advancing red hordes.
O'Sullivan picked up from the five metre scrum and substitute outside half
Jeremy Manning converted his score.
Munster were right back in it and only trailed by four points.
With Humphreys retiring hurt, Ulster never regained their shape, though in
truth their forward effort had already imploded.
Five minutes from time, after some fantastic ball retention, Carney scored off
Alan Quinlan's cross kick and Manning converted.
Ulster: B Cunningham; T Bowe, A Trimble, P Wallace, P Steinmetz, D Humphreys, I Boss, J Fitzpatrick, R Best, B Young, J Harrison (c), R Caldwell; S Ferris, K Dawson, R Wilson.
Replacements: P Shields, D Fitzpatrick, T Barker, D Pollock, K Campbell, P McKenzie, A Maxwell.
Munster: C Cullen, B Carney, L Mafi, T Halstead, I Dowling, E Hickey, T O'Leary, E McGovern, J Flannery, T Buckley, D Ryan, S O'Connor, A Quinlan, T McGann, J O'Sullivan.
Replacements: T Ryan, F Sheahan, M Melbourne, R Noonan, B O'Meara, J Manning, K Earls.