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Ulster lack a spark on night legend Foley is honoured

By Michael Sadlier

Published 29/10/2016

Blocked: Ulster’s Luke Marshall is tackled by Andrew Conway
Blocked: Ulster’s Luke Marshall is tackled by Andrew Conway

There were occasional fireworks to be heard outside the Kingspan Stadium but, inside, things were very different. This time Ulster couldn't engineer their way out of a situation that they should never have been in, in the first place.

Leading 14-0, they should have closed the deal but failed to heed the warning signs and, this time, they were the ones struggling to bring any shape into the game.

Last week, it was Gareth Steenson who missed with a last-minute drop goal to steal the game for Exeter. This week, Munster's Rory Scannell nailed his one and it fell to Paddy Jackson to try and rescue it.

The Ulsterman's long-range attempt - more out of desperation than any conviction - didn't make it and Ulster's second-half misery was complete.

The home side's last points came in the 34th minute and, so, Munster gradually ground their way back into things, racking up 15 unanswered points.

Crisis? Well that's two straight league defeats to Irish opposition, an injury list that grows ever longer and an on-pitch performance that is now seriously misfiring. Sounds like we might have that crisis brewing.

There was still one low-key happening before hostilities broke out last night, and it marked Anthony Foley's untimely passing.

Down in the bowels of the main stand, in the away changing room to be precise, a plaque had been erected to Foley's memory and was there as the Munster team arrived at the Kingspan and began their pre-match preparations.

The books of condolence were still open in the Kingspan's reception and the match programme ran with tributes from Les Kiss and Chief Executive Shane Logan, while a full page was devoted to Foley.

Back to the rugby. At least Ulster set the tone from the off with Charles Piutau's first competitive try for Ulster courtesy of a rebound, off Craig Gilroy, Andrew Conway and Darren Sweetnam, which fell to the Kiwi superstar and he didn't need any second invitation.

Still, they all count and that got Ulster moving in the right direction, though things went rather flat after that.

Worryingly, though, Kiss' men couldn't cut out their errors, especially when it came to exit strategies.

Even so, the next score was Ulster's. They worked a rare sortie into Munster territory and from a penalty went for the corner.

The maul went to ground though and then things got even worse. With Ruan Pienaar sucked in, Billy Holland hoofed the ball upfield, causing panic in Ulster ranks.

Cue Rob Lyttle. Not an original replacement, he had been drafted in when Jacob Stockdale dropped out and then with Darren Cave hobbling off after just eight minutes, he was on.

Lyttle collected the kicked through ball and using footwork and speed Piutau would be proud of, he slalomed his way through Tommy O'Donnell and Ian Keatley - it has to be said that both were poor tackle attempts - and in a flash was over at the posts.

Jackson converted and, well, Ulster were 14-0 to the good.

Munster then spoiled it all by scoring every point that remained in this arm-wrestle.

And as for Ulster, well, they just fell apart really.

Belfast Telegraph

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