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Strong finish could not make up for Munster's slow start against Ulster: van Graan


Johann van Graan

Johann van Graan

�INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Johann van Graan

Munster boss Johann van Graan felt his side ran out of time as they sought a second big comeback in as many outings.

Having claimed an historic victory over Clermont at the Stade Marcel Michelin in their final fixture of 2020 despite an early 19-point deficit, the southern province again trailed early against Ulster but this time couldn't complete the turnaround.

Down 15-3 at half-time, Van Graan's side certainly finished the stronger of the two inter-provincial rivals but Darren Sweetnam's late score that made it 15-10 counted for nothing more than a losing-bonus point.

"Obviously disappointed with the result," reflected the South African coach. "We came here to win. We picked a side we believed were good enough to win up here.

"(But we were) not as accurate as we wanted to be in the first 20 minutes of the game, that first kick-off and that try they scored, that was actually off our scrum that got free-kicked and they got momentum.

"But I felt the longer the game went the more we grew into it.

"(We're) very happy about the reaction at half-time, we stayed in the fight under huge pressure on our own goal-line when we went down to 14 men, but I felt that the tide actually turned there. Like I said to the group, the time just caught us there at the end.

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"We were over the goal-line a few times with a minute or two to spare and we believed we could sneak a win there right at the end but, look, fair play to Ulster. They started the game better than us but I felt we finished it better than them and (it was) a fair result."

Travelling without the likes of Conor Murray, Peter O'Mahony and CJ Stander, the previously unbeaten outfit were always likely to be up against it.

Despite their stand-ins coming away with credit from their second-half showing, it is set to be another week of mass changes as the heavy hitters return for Saturday's trip to Connacht.

The western province's shock win over Leinster in the RDS on Saturday evening has ramped up the intrigue around the fixture with Munster now just eight points ahead of their neighbours at the top of Conference B.

"We'll review this game and then take stock on Monday but certainly everybody that's in our squad that's not injured will be available for selection for next weekend," added Van Graan of his international stars.

Belfast Telegraph