Tommy Bowe's Ulster return to the fold boosts title chances
Star winger Tommy Bowe made his long-awaited return to action yesterday as Ulster 'A' edged out their Munster counterparts in a high-scoring encounter at Forenaughts.
The two-time Lions tourist was making his first appearance in almost six months after a serious knee injury and banked 40 minutes of gametime for the second string before being replaced by Rory Scholes in a game that ended 38-31.
Having sustained damage to his posterior cruciate ligament after only minutes of Ireland's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina at the Millennium Stadium back in October, the 32-year-old's comeback was in more modest surroundings at the home of Naas RFC, with his return to fitness expected to provide a boost to Les Kiss's squad as they look to force their way into the Pro12 play-offs spots over the course of their final three games.
Yesterday, with what was a panel made up of senior squad members and Academy products, Alex Codling's men scored six tries - leading 19-0 at one point in the first-half - and held on to win by a solitary score.
Jacob Stockdale and David Shanahan provided early scores and, in addition to a brace from back-rower Lorcan Dow, had Ulster 26-14 in front at half-time.
Captain Darren Cave and Scholes both crossed shortly after the turn before Munster provided the game's final 17 points.
Dow - who made his senior debut against Treviso in January - enjoyed running out alongside the likes of Bowe and Cave.
"Their experience filters through," he said. "Those guys are constantly talking and it gives you confidence."
With Ulster not in action until their trip to face Zebre next Saturday, Cave has stressed the side must not take their eye off the ball against the Italian minnows after getting themselves back into the play-off shake-up thanks to last week's victory over Connacht.
"We've had some problems over there in the past and the beauty of the Pro12 now is that Zebre and Treviso are at the bottom of the league but are still fighting for that spot in Europe so have plenty to play for," he said.
ULSTER A: Mark Best; Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave (captain), Sam Windsor, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny McPhillips, Dave Shanahan; Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Jonny Simpson; Alex Thompson, John Donnan; Stephen Mulholland, Clive Ross, Lorcan Dow.
Replacements: Johnny Murphy, Michael Lagan, Craig Trenier, Tommy O'Hagan, Connor Smyth, Conor Joyce, Conall Boomer, Connor Young, Andrew Magrath, David Busby, Rory Scholes.
ulster a 38