Brian McLaughlin had opted for an entirely different starting line-up from that which went down bravely in Dublin on Boxing Day, although Ulster were still deprived of roughly half of their first-choice XV, with Rory Best, Tom Court, Stephen Ferris and Andrew Trimble all rested for the IRFU Player Management Scheme, while other big names like Nevin Spence, Simon Danielli, Paddy Wallace and Jared Payne were also missing through injury or illness.
A tentative opening saw Munster enjoy the majority of the early possession without posing any significant threat, and indeed, a Munster offside on six minutes allowed Humphreys to kick Ulster into the lead from the visitors' '22'. The advantage was short-lived, however, as, after a patient Munster build-up, winger Luke O'Dea resisted a desperate last-ditch Ulster tackle to go over in the right-hand corner on 14 minutes. Ian Keatley added the extras to set the score at Ulster 3 Munster 7.
The Ulster response was mercurial. Pinpoint and lightning-quick passing saw the hosts burst upfield just shy of 20 minutes, with superb handling from Pienaar in particular eventually forcing the Munster infringement directly in front of the posts. Humphreys slotted home with ease, reducing the gap to a solitary point, and it wasn't long before an exhilarating breakaway move saw the home team take the lead.
After a turnover in midfield, Darren Cave bulldozed a path through the Munster defence and supplied Terblanche on the wing at the opportune moment. The veteran Springbok marked his first full start with a graceful dive-and-slide into the corner, and the score rose to Ulster 13 Munster 7 thanks to Humphreys' conversion.
Keatley clawed back three points virtually immediately with the help of Ulster's left-hand upright, and had the chance to level the encounter on 34 minutes from a central position, but screwed the kick wide. Then, a second Ulster break only moments later found Terblanche in roughly the same position from which he had grabbed his try. This time, however, there were too many red-clad obstacles in his way, but, after some smart recycling, the ball found its way to Afoa, who had the requisite brawn to force his way over for the second try. Humphreys converted to put Ulster a clear ten ahead at the break.
Half-Time Score Ulster 20 Munster 10
Ulster's third try, five minutes after the restart, came from a combination of opportunism and guile. Pedrie Wannenburg capitalised on a Munster fumble well in their own half, hacking the ball on alertly. Humphreys was first to react, dribbling on over the line before gratefully touching down. The out-half narrowly failed to convert his own score, and was unlucky again moments later when he saw his penalty attempt ricochet off the post. Nevertheless, with the score at Ulster 25 Munster 10 on 48 minutes, a bonus point victory looked a very realistic target.
Right on cue, Ravenhill went into rapture on 55 minutes when Pienaar took advantage of some sloppy scrummaging from the visitors to nip in and take the ball legally, before tearing up the final third to land try number four in the left-hand corner. The Humphreys conversion span just wide, but with a twenty-point lead before the hour mark, the match was as good as won.
A buoyant Ulster refused to rest on their laurels, and their ambition was rewarded further 10 minutes from time, with an elementary penalty from Pienaar raising the lead to Ulster 33 Munster 10. The Munstermen grabbed a late consolation through Johne Murphy on 76 minutes after Ulster had dropped the ball metres from their own line, and although Keatley rapidly converted, the scoring was over.
Next up for Ulster is an away Pro 12 trip to Edinburgh next Friday, before the visit of the Leicester Tigers in January 13th's crucial Heineken Cup clash.
Full-Time Score Ulster 33 Munster 17
(15 - 9) A D'Arcy; C Gilroy, D Cave, I Whitten, S Terblanche; I Humphreys, R Pienaar
(1 - 8) P McAllister, A Kyriacou, J Afoa; J Muller (c), D Tuohy; C Henry, W Faloon, P Wannenburg
Replacements (16 - 23) N Brady, C Black, A Macklin, L Stevenson, A Birch, P Marshall, C Farrell, P Nelson
(15 - 9) DHurley; L O'Dea, T Gleeson, L Mafi, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams
(1 - 8) W Du Preez, D Varley, S Archer; I Nagle, M O'Driscoll (c): D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, J Coughlan
Replacements (16 - 23) D Fogarty, M Horan, J Ryan, B Holland, P Butler, T O'Leary, S Deasey, W Chambers
|Ulster Rugby Score Card|
|Munster Rugby Score Card|