Belfast Telegraph

Fans' euphoria as Ulster stun Munster

By Wyn Griffiths at Thomond Park

Munster 16 Ulster 22: The head coach of Ulster, Brian McLaughlin, described his side's stunning Heineken Cup quarter-final victory over Munster as probably the biggest day in his rugby career. Ulster became only the second team to beat Munster here at Thomond Park in the history of the competition, joining Leicester who won a pool game there in January 2007.

McLaughlin said: "It was a big highlight in my career, probably the biggest day in my life in rugby terms. It is also important to mention the impact and energy we gleaned from our fans in the stadium. The support was outstanding."

Ruan Pienaar had a key kicking contribution of 14 points, landing four penalties from five attempts and converting a sensational early try from the nippy Craig Gilroy. Pienaar's half-back partner, Ian Humphreys also weighed in with a drop goal to give the Ulstermen a 19-0 advantage.

Simon Zebo went over in the left corner before half-time and Ronan O'Gara kicked 11 points to give Munster a decent shot at pulling off a comeback. But Ulster stood firm to set up a semi-final meeting with Edinburgh at the Aviva Stadium on 28 April.

"Ruan's place-kicking was exemplary and Craig Gilroy's try, to be 19-0 up after 25 minutes was a dream," said McLaughlin. "We played brilliantly. It was our game plan personified.

"We knew Munster were going to come at us and they certainly did. We knew after half-time it was going to be another battle. All credit to the guys on the pitch, they were magnificent today.

"Today is the culmination of three years' hard work. We have been emphasising the importance of getting Ulster up the ladder and getting to that top table," said McLaughlin. "We are not there yet. Edinburgh showed in their quarter-final win over Toulouse what they can do and it is all set up for another magnificent semi-final."

Ulster's captain Johann Muller described the result as a "special" victory. "It was a special effort from everyone, not just players- and management-wise, everyone," said the South African lock. "The start was something special. Hats off to the guys, to make sure we got the victory, is a special thing and a special victory for everyone."

Munster's head coach, Tony McGahan, was hugely disappointed by the result. "You need to give the opposition credit. I thought Ulster were terrific today right across the park," he said. "They controlled the scoreboard and they controlled field position in that first half.

"Full credit to the Munster team for the way they fought back to 19-13. But when Ulster pushed out to 22-13 it put a big dent in what we were trying to do."

Munster Try Zebo; Conversion O'Gara; Penalties O'Gara 3; Ulster Try Gilroy; Conversion Pienaar; Penalties Pienaar 4; Drop goal Humphreys.

Munster Jones; Hurley (Murphy 52), Earls, Mafi, Zebo; O'Gara, Murray (O'Leary 72); Du Preez, Sherry (Varley 67), Botha, Ryan, O'Connell (capt), O'Mahony (Wallace 72), O'Donnell (O'Callaghan 59), Coughlan

Ulster Terblanche; Trimble, Cave, Wallace, Gilroy; Humphreys, Pienaar; Court, Best, Afoa, Muller (capt), Tuohy, Ferris, Henry, Wannenburg.

Referee R Poite (FRFU).

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