Five-try Munster hit form
May 5, 2012
Simon Zebo scored one of Munster's five tries against Ulster
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Munster ran in five tries to beat Heineken Cup finalists Ulster 36-8 - though it was not enough to snatch a home semi-final in the play-offs.
Simon Zebo and forwards Peter O'Mahony, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer and Tommy O'Donnell all crossed for the defending league champions, who will travel to the Ospreys in next weekend's semi-finals. However, the Thomond Park success was marred by a suspected knee injury which forced Paul O'Connell off midway through the second half.
The Zebo and O'Mahony tries book-ended the first period which ended with Ulster 17-3 adrift. Sherry and Ulster newcomer Iain Henderson swapped tries in an even third quarter, but Munster finished strongly to rubber-stamp their third-place finish in the table.
In his final appearance at the Limerick venue, Lifeimi Mafi provided the first spark in attack when linking with the onrushing Zebo. Munster maintained their presence in the visitors' half and from a powerful lineout maul, man-of-the-match Conor Murray sprung the ball left for Scott Deasy to put Zebo over in the corner.
Deasy, a late call-up at outside-half, added the extras with aplomb and a Murray blockdown and a sniping run from Ivan Dineen kept the Ulster defence working hard. Nevin Spence put in some strong challenges in midfield before Andrew Trimble was sin-binned for tugging back Zebo as he chased Deasy's grubber-kick.
Deasy's resulting penalty was cancelled out by a fine long-range effort from Paddy Jackson in the 20th minute, and Ulster held their provincial rivals scoreless while Trimble was off the pitch. First-time starter Henderson did well in the lineout for the Heineken Cup finalists and an electric break from Paul Marshall had Munster scrambling back behind their tryline.
Munster's raids forward were a little predictable, however an O'Donnell surge on the right did the initial damage as the hosts swept through for a second try on the stroke of half-time. Mafi drew in a couple of defenders and a neat necklace of passes from Felix Jones, Mick O'Driscoll and O'Connell unleashed O'Mahony for the right corner. Deasy, who missed an earlier penalty, successfully converted to put 14 points between the sides at the break.
Munster resumed on the offensive although stubborn work in defence from Jackson and Trimble saw Sherry robbed on two occasions. They could only hold out for so long though, with Murray and O'Connell both lively in the loose and the latter's lineout win allowing Sherry to drive over on the end of a maul.
Deasy added the conversion and Ulster hit back with a tremendous score from young flanker Henderson, whose power and pace took him past Jones and Zebo to stretch over in the right corner.
The sight of O'Connell being helped off will have concerned Tony McGahan and watching Ireland boss Declan Kidney, but Keith Earls did make a welcome return from injury.
The final quarter was scrappy with a flurry of substitutions doing little for the flow of the game. Ulster could not convert their pressure into points and the contest was over when prop Archer wrestled through to touch the ball against the bottom of the post, with TMO Alan Rogan confirming the try and replacement Declan Cusack converting.
In injury time, O'Donnell's 25-metre burst saw him gallop through for try number five with Munster's minds already on next Friday's trip to Swansea.
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