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Crazy end to end stuff on night defences went AWOL

By Michael Sadlier

Published 31/10/2015

Best boot forward: Paddy Jackson on kicking duties for Ulster against Munster at Thomond Park, scoring eight points
Best boot forward: Paddy Jackson on kicking duties for Ulster against Munster at Thomond Park, scoring eight points

Making some sense of it all is no easy task.

An occasion where nine tries were scored in a game hardly being played in ideal conditions -the number of missed kicks by Paddy Jackson and Ian Keatley told a tale - meant that at times it was just crazy end-to-end stuff.

And while that was great to watch, and ensured this was a dramatic interprovincial which was in the balance right up until the final whistle, it was the stuff of nightmares for both coaches, though particularly those with defensive duties.

Still, Ulster can take enormous credit for their efforts in Limerick even though they came up short in a game which was nip and tuck throughout. True, but there is also no escaping the fact that they lost on the road again and, in many ways, allowed this one to slip through their hands.

The positives to be drawn can be found in the way they fought back from being 32-21 down with just over 10 minutes to go, having not scored from the 45th minute. And, of course, they walked away with what could be a highly prized two bonus points, thanks to their four tries and the narrow margin of defeat.

Even so, the feeling of frustration is hard to shake off. Ulster had a great shot at stealing the game right at the death but losing that lineout after Jackson had kicked for the corner was a poor outcome.

In one of the most bizarre endings to a game you're likely to see, Munster's attempts at playing down the clock on their own line through some pick and goes, which to Ulster's credit got nowhere, presented the visitors with another opportunity with the clock not quite being red when Keatley kicked for touch.

Strangely, a scrum ensued with Ulster's put-in again bringing a marvellous chance into play. But in that utterly frantic endgame, Neil Doak's men couldn't find that way through with Stuart McCloskey losing his footing near the touchline and then being dragged out by some highly relieved defenders.

On neither occasion had Ulster managed to make things pay and they suffered the consequences.

Surrendering the tryline to Munster five times was always going to make things difficult and defensive mismatches were worked well by the home side while misreads from Ulster also assisted in this regard.

The discipline was also fractured at key times though referee Marius Mitrea was maybe a bit too eager with his whistle at certain vital moments.

Mind you, there was no denying the damage CJ Stander did to Ulster at the breakdown and not even replacement Chris Henry escaped the referee's censure in this area, while a blood-spattered Nick Williams - again a force of nature - also found himself being pinged too often which was just too costly.

And yet, after Ulster had failed to get on the scoreboard for most of the second half, they somehow managed to battle back.

Their work going forward had a fairly constant theme mixing variety of running angles with eagerness to keep the ball alive in contact.

There were some super scores - six in all from both sides in the first half alone - but Dan Tuohy's 68th minute effort was a marvellous example of Ulster countering at pace, with two-try Craig Gilroy getting it all going.

Yes, so much to admire but also plenty to be frustrated with as well.

Leaders Scarlets extended their unbeaten Guinness PRO12 with a 25-15 win over Newport Gwent Dragons at the Parc y Scarlets. In the first Welsh derby of the 2015-16 campaign, Scarlets' James Davies and Phil John scored two tries apiece.

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