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Ulster hold on for historic Munster win

Ulster have set up a home semi-final clash with Edinburgh after beating provincial rivals Munster 22-16 in this season's Heineken Cup.

Munster were hit by a northern whirlwind in the opening 20 minutes at Thomond Park, with Ruan Pienaar booting a trio of long-range penalties and converting a stunning try from 21-year-old winger Craig Gilroy.

But the Reds' own whizz kid Simon Zebo grabbed a try back and the hosts cut the gap to 19-10 with a Ronan O'Gara penalty on the stroke of half-time. In a gripping second half, O'Gara kept Munster's comeback bid on course, but a fourth penalty from Pienaar sent Ulster through to their first European semi-final since they won the tournament back in 1999.

This was only the third ever Irish interprovincial derby in Heineken Cup history, with Munster having faced Leinster in two previous semi-finals.

Munster were hoping to pick up where they left off in January when they handed Northampton Saints a Pool One thrashing, but boosted by Stephen Ferris' inclusion Ulster made a purposeful start, creating a 19-0 lead.

Munster desperately needed to respond before the break and they did just that. Having sucked in the Ulster defence for once, a long accurate pass from Keith Earls gave his centre partner Lifiemi Mafi the opportunity to put Zebo over in the left corner.

In the second half the game developed into a slugfest between the packs as the intensity showed no sign of decreasing and Ulster's tackle count hit the three-figure mark.

Staring at only their second ever Heineken Cup defeat in Limerick, Munster rallied and hunted for another game-changing moment.

Although Ian Humphreys was inches away with a drop goal attempt and Pienaar drilled a penalty wide for his only miss of a high-octane tie, Ulster hung on to claim a famous victory and a semi-final against the Scots at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, April 28.


From Belfast Telegraph