There were a number of excellent performances from Ulster players on the night, including blindside flank Iain Henderson who scored a magnificent individual try in his first senior start.
An experienced Munster side took the lead early on with a try from left wing Simon Zebo. Forward momentum from a Munster lineout allowed scrumhalf Conor Murray to feed his half back partner Scott Deasy on the blindside. His neat footwork sucked in two defenders before he supplied Zebo with the scoring pass. Scott Deasy, called in as a late replacement for Ian Keatley, added the conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead.
The hosts pressed for another score almost immediately but Nevin Spence put in a couple of big hits to halt their progress.
As the home side continued to look dangerous, Ivan Dineen made a break deep into Ulster territory and from the ensuing phase Andrew Trimble pulled back Zebo after Lifeimi Mafi had kicked through. Trimble was sent to the bin and the impressive Deasy kicked the resultant penalty to extend the lead to 10-0.
Ulster's excellent first half defence was typified by the next 10 minute spell in which they conceded no further points but registered three of their own despite the numerical disadvantage. During that period Paddy Jackson landed a well struck penalty to cut the gap to 7 points again, before Deasy then failed with an attempt when Henderson was penalised for not rolling away at ruck time.
Trimble returned but Munster continued to dominate territory and possession and they soon got their reward on the stroke of half time. Ireland back row Peter O'Mahony was the beneficiary of some excellent Munster phase play as he scored in the corner on the stroke of half time. Mafi sparked the attack with a couple of remarkable dummies creating an overlap, ably exploited by precision passing from his forwards as Paul O'Connell supplied the final pass. The conversion took the score to 17-3 at the break.
Munster were equally dangerous in the second half and made a couple of line breaks which they were unable to finish off. That was until Mike Sherry burst over for a converted try, again from a maul, extending the lead to 24-3.
The explosive Henderson then scored a wonderful try to give Ulster hope. The Ireland U20 star collected the ball near the touchline on the Munster 22 and showed blistering pace to beat a defender, before brushing off another two and reaching for the line. Jackson was unable to add the extras so the score was 24-8 after 55 minutes.
A midfield fumble by Munster allowed Spence to hack on and Deasy knocked on to give Ulster a five metre scrum, but poor ball retention from the forwards allowed the hosts to clear the danger.
Talismanic Ireland second row Paul O'Connell limped off with a serious looking injury in the closing stages. As he departed, Blane McIlroy and Niall Annett entered the fray for their second senior Ulster appearances, with the latter particularly impressive with his lineout throwing.
Prop Stephen Archer and back row Tommy O'Donnell scored late touchdowns in the dying minutes to clinch the bonus point win. Replacement outhalf Declan Cusack converted one to leave a slightly flattering final scoreline of 36-8.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin was left frustrated after watching his side suffer a 36-8 defeat away to Munster in their final RaboDirect PRO12 game of the season.
He said: "We are hugely disappointed. We turned over too much ball and made too many mistakes all round. They didn't have to do much to score their tries as our defence was soft and we lacked discipline. We did well in the first 20 minutes of the second half but at this level you have to perform for the whole game or you will get punished."
McLaughlin continued: "There were some positives to take from tonight though. Iain Henderson put in a tremendous performance and scored a great try. It was also good to see Blane McIlroy and Niall Annett get another run out at this level."
Ulster will travel to Portugal next week for a training camp in preparation for the Heineken Cup Final on 19th May. McLaughlin said: "We will get rested before we go over for the camp in Portugal on Monday. We will go there for a few days to make sure we get everything on the money so we are ready for Twickenham. Leinster are an exceptional side and you don't get many chances against them, so you have to be clinical when you do get opportunities."
|Munster Rugby Score Card|
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|