We’ll “Take That”! Ulster 23 – Munster 23.

Maybe my tweet about it being a winner take all encounter jinxed both teams, condemning them to remain 3rd and 4th in the table, but what a full-blooded and enthralling contest we were treated to in Belfast!  Yes it was gutting to concede a try at the death in both halves but if you had offered me 2 league points before kick-off I would have been very tempted.  What an exciting 22nd round we have in prospect next Saturday with all 6 games kicking off at 3pm.  See below for the line-ups, permutations and league rules and an explanation of the boyband reference of the title!


Munster got off to a promising start as they sought to inflict the first league home defeat on Ulster this season.  Winning an early advantage when Paul O’Connell was grabbed around the neck as he gathered the kick-off, Munster maintained possession through many phases before Ulster finally got their hand on the ball when Dave Kilcoyne knocked on and Ulster cleared to touch.  Unfortunately Tommy O’Donnell pulled up with a hamstring injury in the early exchanges and had to leave after just three minutes so Academy player of the year (and hopefully Pro12 try scorer of the year!) Jack O’Donoghue came on in his place.

Tommy O'Donnell's game came to an early end. Hopefully he will be back soon.

Tommy O’Donnell’s game came to an early end. Hopefully he will be back soon.

Ulster went offside giving Keatley his first kick at goal and he made no mistake to move Munster into a 0-3 lead after 5 minutes. Most of the other action in the first half seemed to take place down the other end from us.  I was impressed by the fact that Munster did not concede any penalties when they seemed to have to make tackle after tackle for most of the half but maybe it is my perception as the stats don’t back that up – it shows possession and territory were close enough – Ulster had 53% possession and 51% territory in the first half!  See details below. Ulster missed some good chances, Bowe just overran a pass while Paddy Jackson’s pass to Jared Payne went loose and was pounced on by Earls who hacked it on from his own 22m, sprinting past the covering Rory Best to kick it on again.  Fair dues to Iain Henderson who came flying across the field and just managed to nudge Earls off as he tried to touch down the ball.  Great pace from the forward!  I was surprised throughout the game by how the ball bounced, after all the rain we had in Dublin yesterday there seemed to be a lot of spring in the pitch, impacting Munster’s kicking game.

CJ Stander was again a main ball carrier for Munster and won his 6th Man of the Match award this season to go with his Player of the Year accolade!

Simon Zebo did not have much opportunity in attack but made some key contributions in defence and we were surprised to see him go off after 26 minutes to be replaced by Ronan O’Mahony.  I read in the42.ie that he had been struggling with a back injury all week so hopefully he will make a speedy recovery.

It was great to see Donnacha Ryan back, playing the full 80 minutes and claiming 5 lineouts. It seems amazing that he has not started with Paul O’Connell since Perpignan last season!!

Donnacha Ryan contests the lineout

Donnacha Ryan contests the lineout

Munster scored next just after the half-hour from a scrum infringement (not driving straight) and from a more difficult angle near us Keatley was again on target.  Iain Henderson was then penalised for not coming through the gate to tackle Murray at the base of a ruck and we were ecstatic to go 0-9 up with less than 4 minutes left till the break but those were to be costly minutes.

Ulster got a penalty from a scrum deep in the Munster half for their first kick at goal which Paddy Jackson converted.  Then from the restart with just 20s left on the clock, disaster struck when Rory Best gathered up Paul’s knock back and before we knew it we were 10-9 down!   A sublime offload by Iain Henderson set Tommy Bowe off at pace, Murray and Jones failed to stop him.  Earls even dived on Bowe as he dived over the line but did not manage to knock the ball out of his grasp.  Jackson added the extra and it was half time.

It was great to see how much fun the special Olympics kids had playing their mini rugby as they waved to the crowd with huge smiles.  The choir was also very good and had us singing along.

Half time - the minis had a blast

Half time – the minis had a blast

John Ryan started the second half (we learnt later that Kilcoyne was concussed) and continued to impress this season while BJ Botha came on after 48 minutes.  When Ian Keatley gave away a penalty for being offside Ulster stretched their lead to 13-9 but Munster responded well, taking a more direct approach.  It paid dividends, Keatley kicking a penalty on 54 to bring it back to a 1 point game.  The scrum was a real weapon and put Ulster on the back foot.  No one lost their shirt but a few of the forwards nearly lost their shorts.  The Ulster lady behind me joked that it would be ok if it was Tommy Bowe’s backside we were looking at!  Another powerful scrum with CJ controlling the ball at the base while it moved at pace provided Keatley with the opportunity to take the lead on the hour mark.

Keith Earls was again in the wars when contact was made in the air as he chased a box kick by Murray giving another kickable penalty which was converted to made it 13-18 and we were delighted that most of the action seemed to be at the far end from us again!  Could Munster close out the game?  Ulster have a superb home record and they were not going to give it up easily!  John Ryan went offside and Jackson brought them back to 16-18 to set up a pulsating final ten minutes.  We thought we would prevail when Iain Henderson was red carded for “leading with his head” clearing out – you can see it for yourself here from the 42.ie.

Nigel Owens after consulting with the TMO shows Henderson a red card

Nigel Owens after consulting with the TMO shows Henderson a red card

Munster kicked the penalty to touch and went on the attack, lineout secured, maul on the far side before spreading it quickly through Keatley and Jones to Keith Earls who stood up Ludik to score the try.  Unfortunately the touchline conversion was missed but Ian Keatley’s otherwise excellent place kicking moved him to top of the Pro12 points scorers table for the season, 6 points ahead of Dan Biggar.

Ulster were running out of time but forced their way back up the pitch.  A lineout, a maul to suck in the defenders, desperate defence from Munster when McCloskey broke through, then Payne almost got there and suddenly they had an overlap on the wing for Paul Marshall (a replacement for Nelson) to score.  Of course we willed Jackson to miss the conversion while the players tried to put him off also but to the delight of the Ulster fans around us he was successful and salvaged the draw.

Efforts to charge down the conversion

Efforts to charge down the conversion as Sparky motions for silence and the match clock under the big screen shows time is up!

Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Eusebio Guinazu, Stephen Archer; Donnacha Ryan, Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony (Capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, John Ryan, BJ Botha, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Ronan O’Mahony.

Ulster: Louis Ludik; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Darren Cave, Peter Nelson, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best (Capt), Wiehahn Herbst, Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe, Iain Henderson, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Bronson Ross, Robbie Diack, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Stuart McCloskey.

Match stats: note the low penalty count conceded by Munster and the closeness for possession, territory and tackles made. The centre partnership made the most tackles with Denis Hurley making 18 while young Jack missed none of his 9.

Updated stats pulled on Sunday from ESPN

Updated stats pulled on Sunday from ESPN

Doing a recce

Some people had predicted we could be going to Belfast for the semi-final so this trip was a good opportunity to do some reconnaissance and get the lie of the land.  This week’s blog title was inspired by seeing the faithful Take That fans queueing outside the 3Arena as we went past at 10.30a.m. and when we were returning about 8pm the doors were open and there were queues to get in.

Some of the motley crew from the bus: Fergal, John, Dave, Gayl, Dee, Bruce, Jonathan, Joe and Tom

Some of the motley crew from the bus: Fergal, John, Dave, Gayl, Bruce, Dee, Jonathan, Joe and Tom

36 supporters travelled on the MRSC Dublin bus I had organised to the game and I was very impressed by their punctuality and relieved that our bus managed to get down the narrow one way street without clipping anyone’s wing mirror when the driver took the wrong turn down to the stadium!  I could slag off John for being last to arrive in the morning but the blame is apparently with Iarnrod Eireann while the two girls were last back after the game after turning right instead of left, sure it could happen to anyone!  I enjoyed chatting with Sean from Maynooth (originally Limerick) and Gerard who had helped establish the MRSC Brussels branch.  I introduced John and Donal to Jim from whom they were delighted to purchase his brother’s spare tickets.

I arrived at the bus depot myself 5 minutes early to find Gerry and Jim had already boarded and the driver was pulling out!  When I asked the driver if he knew where we were going and if he had a sat nav he said no so I was a bit concerned when he did not follow my directions as we were nearing Belfast, but he was following the satnav on his phone – hence the narrow street adventure!  When he eventually parked at a funeral home I hoped it was not an omen but maybe the warning on the Methodist church was more prophetic given the last-minute heroics of Ulster

Ulster scored at the death in both halves!  Not giving up till the fat lady sings.

Ulster scored at the death in both halves! Not giving up till the fat lady sings.

It was my first visit to the Ulster ground and I was impressed.  The locals were welcoming and there was good banter and atmosphere.  There was a large open area with various food options – sausage, burgers, wok, even crepes – and a bar area right beside the merchandise shop.  The bar was well organised, a team of pint pullers kept going while the servers took the money and served so the queues moved quickly and in a line to the till as opposed to in many bars where you desperately try to catch someone’s eye!  It was nice to meet Mr and Mrs Chips again who introduced me to Kavy also from the Forum.

The west terrace was more tiered (I counted 18 steps but think they were narrower that at Thomond) and seemed more spacious than a full house in Limerick.  You entered from the top and could move down or across easily to different sections within each half.  It took ages to spot the match clock – it probably is easier to spot on a dark night but I eventually found it under the big screen but partially obscured by the goalpost from my position.  The roof of the stand did not extend over the terrace so we were lucky we had a dry day, indeed it was sunny at times with a breeze in the second half.

The mascot Sparky moved around the ground throughout game, encouraging silence for the kickers and at one stage during a break in play showing off some good push up skills!  He seems to even have his own twitter account and favourited my #gamedaycolours tweet.  A band was somewhere to my right and from time to time started off “Stand up for the Ulstermen” to get the crowd going again.

A collage of images - Jonathan was very impressed by the beer glass holders; pictures of the players looked on from the stand behind the goal post; free recharge points; Sparky was involved throughout the game, the choir at half time, the terrace

A collage of images – Jonathan was very impressed by the beer glass holders; pictures of the players looked on from the stand behind the goal post; free recharge points; Sparky was involved throughout the game, the choir at half time, the terrace (after the game)

Before kick-off there was a competition for five young season ticket holders to kick at goal from the 22m line, what a great experience for them and an opportunity to win £1,500 worth of rugby equipment for their school, £500 in cash and a kicking masterclass with Ulster Rugby coaches!  Thanks to “Borderlord” for his comment below clarifying that they were AIMING for the crossbar!  A much more difficult thing to achieve!

The emails before and after the game to the ticket buyer from Ulster rugby provided useful information in advance of the trip, especially interesting to read their values.

Pre match email with details of the team etc and their values

Pre match email with details of the team, tickets, competitions etc and their values

Dave sat beside me on the bus and I took the opportunity to brain wash him. I was so effective that before we arrived back into Dublin he had read last weeks blog, commented on it and signed up to get future editions by email!  Both Jim’s from the bus also signed up to get the blog by email without having their ear bent by me so thanks guys!  I am expecting a few others to show their appreciation of my organisation of the bus trip by reading this weeks edition and adding their comments about their experience in the stands and other terraces.


If two or more Teams finish with the same number of league points, their placings will be determined by the following criteria in descending order:

  • number of matches won;
  • the difference between points for and points against;
  • the number of tries scored;
  • the most points scored;
  • the difference between tries for and tries against;
  • the fewest number of red cards received;
  • the fewest number of yellow cards received.

So looking at the table below you can see how Munster are ranked third due to winning 14 games, one less than both Ospreys and Glasgow.  Bonus points next weekend could be crucial but what upsets will there be?

The games won and points difference columns will be studied carefully in preparation for Saturday

The games won and points difference columns will be studied carefully in preparation for Saturday

It will be interesting to see which games will be shown live on TV (schedules to be confirmed). Can Leinster help Connacht and Connacht help Munster by winning and if Ulster make it 4/4 for the Irish provinces we would end up with a home semi… it’s gonna be a long week!  Here is what they wrote in the42.ie about the requirements for Munster, Ulster and Connacht.

All games kick off at the same time

All games kick off at the same time

Finally my other passion is for Nepal – where I lived from 1992 – 1994 and have many friends – and some of you may be interested in a recent  blog I wrote about the earthquake there.  Combining these two on the occasion of my 100th edition and 30,000th view of the WestTerraceView I would love someone to make me an offer I can’t refuse of a donation to the Nepal relief efforts in return for the signed Irish jersey I won recently.  See photo in my Edinburgh game blog.  You can contact me by email at WTView@live.ie or leave a comment below if you wish to bid.


24 comments on “We’ll “Take That”! Ulster 23 – Munster 23.

  1. from Twitter:
    Catriona : @WTView awesome report!
    Rob: great stuff Gayl, has to be a BP win next week!! #SUAF
    James: you’re a top reporter, I didnt see the game but when I read the report, I don’t have to.
    Christopher (Ulster supporter): great read hope you enjoyed your time at ravenhill 4pp🏉🏆
    Chris (Ulster supporter): · read your blog -very good. Glad you enjoyed your trip to Ulster

  2. Thanks for another nice blog. Good game yesterday and Ravenhill looked well. Espnscrum stats have Hurley making 18 tackles and missing none.

    • Thank you for checking out the blog again and for your first comment on wordpress, ESPN do update the stats so I’ll update my report now too! I am sure it was 15 last night but it was midnight when I was checking it! I see the tackle count number has increased too from the snip I took then (up from 100 to 129!) so I am not making that up!

  3. thank you for a well written and descriptive blog and it was my pleasure to meet you and I would like to thank you for organising the coach Gayl

    I had the best time up in Ravenhill yesterday, I was there a few years ago and now Ulster have probably the best provincial rugby stadium in ireland .. It’s the right size with the right crowd capacity and the stands are covered on all four sides. The atmosphere was electric and the Ulster supporters club did an excellent job with laying out flags in the seats, plus there was pre match entertainment and half time entertainment, they had a brass band situated up in one stand as well. I sat amongst all Ulster fans and I was made to feel very welcome. I certainly would recommend a trip up there. Ulster have a great team and even though I was raging Munster did not hold out for a win, I would not begrudge Ulster the draw. I never properly saw the incident with Henderson so I cannot comment but I was most impressed with Munster’s discipline. I truly hope both teams make it to the final.

    • Thanks Sean, my pleasure and thanks for reminding me via facebook about the band they had which got the crowd going at times. it reminded me of London Irish when they came to Thomond for a European game.

  4. A great read. Would love to have been on the bus. Sounds like there was great craic. Haven’t been to Ravenhill yet but great to see the West Terrace crew ably represented on the telly. A draw was a fair result considering the chances missed by both sides. Who could have predicted just how close the top 4 places would be to each other?

    • I did tweet about a potential draw on Friday but did not think it that likely. it will all come down to bonus points next Saturday to separate the home from the away semi-finalists. We’ll all be cheering on Connacht (and Ulster) from the Red Shed!

  5. Thanks Gayl for titanic report. Great MRSC photo with flags outside Ravenhill. Massive result for Munster. Well done and appreciations for sterling review on Belfast recce.

    • Hopefully the info from our raid over the border will pay dividends in the knock-outs! Munster can get some ideas on improving it’s match day experience also from checking out what other clubs do. See you Sat as the 16th man and woman get behind our final push for a home semi with a prayer being cast to Connacht and Ulster also!

      • Congrats Gayl, 30,000 +hits. What a wonderful milestone for your blog.

        Next Sat, 16th May is D Day for Munster Dragons. Hopefully Irish Independence Park‘s 16th Man capacity crowd will experience another great home victory.

        Pob lwc Munster (Welsh: Good Luck)

      • Thanks Tony. The 16th man will be anxious for bonus pt but we need to respect Dragons and set out to win the game first. Could be a nerve wracking experience! If not televised it should sell out for biggest crowd in IIP this year.

  6. Hey Gayl , again a great read !!! I was particularly interested in the fact Ryan Grant has followed you on Twitter , the reason being I know his dad and only recently went on a Vets rugby tour to Manila with him , its a small world !!!

    • Sadly he realised his error and unfollowed me! Simon hasn’t yet:-) Will remove that from blog when I add in the link to highlights video and folks will be confused by your comment! Love seeing my weekly view coming in from Qatar!

  7. Another excellent and informative blog, Gayl. Didn’t see the match, in transit from London to Dublin. Before the game I would have taken a loosing bonus point so going home with 2 points ain’t bad at all. A bonus point win next Saturday against the Dragons would be very welcome but after that things are totally out of our hands.
    Lets start the novenas.

    • Thanks John, the phones will be out big time next weekend tracking all the action but first things first, prepare for Dragons, win the game and then go for the jugular (BP) and the novenas should include our provincial brothers who can help us out! FourProudProvinces!

  8. Great read once again Gayl and thanks again for organising the bus. It was a great trip to Ulster, really enjoyed the atmosphere on the bus and in the stadium. Hopefully we can do it again shortly 😉

  9. Howya Gayl,

    As an Ulster fan it is interesting to read of your experience at Ravenhill. We consider it to be one of the best stadiums on the country and as you said the atmosphere is pretty good too.

    It was great to see so many Munster fans at the game and I enjoyed a few beers with some of them in the bar before the match and the craic was good.

    The young kickers before the match were attempting to hit the crossbar in order to win the prize and two of them did indeed go pretty close.

    I must declare a bit of an interest in Munster as my future son-in-law is from near Croom so a semi-final visit to Thomond wouldn’t be too bad for me. In any event, I have a ticket for the final where a rematch of Saturdays match would be the best possible outcome.

    All the best to Munster and Ulster in the last few games.

    • Thanks for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. You have good reason to be proud of your stadium.
      I did not realize the kids were aiming for the crossbar, much tougher thing to achieve..we were cheering the wrong “success” so!
      Best of luck in Glasgow and let’s see who gets paired with who for the semis..No easy games for anyone but home advantage will help! SUFTIM

  10. Enthralling read as ever Gayl. Had 40 odd in BFTB for the match but hats off to you for organising the bus up to Belfast for the day. Great to read the ‘at match’ experience. Kev

    • Thanks Kevin. Great that you had such a good crowd for a “league” game at B4TB which has been consistently high in 2015! Hopefully we’ll secure the home semi next weekend with a little help from our western neighbours!

  11. Hi Gay,
    Enjoyed meeting up with you on the bus to Ravenhill – everything went off well and enjoyed visiting Ravenhill again and with all the improvements to the ground, it really was an enjoyable day out.I was a bit dissapointed we didn’t win but two points are still valuable and it makes for a great finish next week-end.Munster never do things the easy way and so a victory against the Dragons is imperative.I only hope we secure a home semi-final as a full Thomond Park would spur us on.
    Well done on organising the bus and keeping tabs on everyone.
    Thanks to Ulster supporters for the banter and the beer.
    We will definitely be back, hopefully to play Ulster in the final.

    • So pleased that everything went smoothly with the group on the day and folks enjoyed their day out. A final with the same teams would be great for Irish rugby except for BaaBaas game but none of the potential semi pairings will be easy! First things first, a good performance next Sat and we’ll take it from there!

  12. Thanks Gayl for great blog updates.The craic on the Bus sounds like it was a real winner. Is that bus going to Cork next Sat, when Dragons fly in, on the anniversary of “Top Gun” which premiered in 1986. Hopefully our aces will be focused on winning the match first, before completing bonus pint win. “To the brave and faithful nothing is impossible”

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