|Ulster (15) 15|
|Tries: Faddes, McIlroy Pen: Cooney Con: Cooney|
|Munster (3) 10|
|Try: Sweetnam Pen: Healy Con: Crowley|
Ulster emerged victorious from their first home inter-provincial derby of the season to extend their unbeaten Pro14 run and inflict a first league defeat of the season on Munster.
All of Ulster’s points came inside the opening half hour, with wings Matt Faddes and Ethan McIlroy scoring tries to give them a vital early lead.
Darren Sweetnam’s score with the last act of the game ensured the visitors return home with a deserved bonus point, having dominated the final quarter of the contest.
Ulster’s win sets up an intriguing meeting with Conference A rivals Leinster on Friday, the last two sides with undefeated records in this season’s competition.
After last week’s meeting with Leinster was postponed, a much-changed Munster returned to league action following two fantastic Heineken Champions Cup results.
By contrast, back-to-back defeats in Europe realistically spelled an end to Ulster’s quarter-final ambitions, meaning their hopes of silverware this season now rest with the Pro14.
Despite making 11 changes, the hosts fielded a number of internationals while Munster left most of their biggest players at home for the trip north.
Wing Faddes put Ulster ahead inside seven minutes, finishing a wonderful set-piece play that saw James Hume and Jacob Stockdale combine to knife through the Munster line.
Munster responded well and found good field position, but ultimately Ben Healy’s penalty was the only score they had to show for their first-half efforts.
After his excellent tackle stopped a promising Munster attack, 20-year-old wing McIlroy made his mark at the other end to extend Ulster’s advantage, latching on to Billy Burns’ chip-kick to slide over in the corner.
Munster take contest to the end
Well-placed to push for a five-point victory, Ulster nearly had their third try through Kieran Treadwell in the second half only for the lock to lose the ball forward just inches before the line.
When Munster skipper Billy Holland was shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul on the hour mark, the stage appeared set for the hosts to attack.
However the sin-bin appeared only to increase Munster’s resolve as the visitors won a turnover through Chris Cloete before driving down the pitch to build try-line pressure of their own.
Ultimately Ulster held out long enough to make sure of the win, but at no point before the clock turned red was their victory assured as the visitors continued to press.
When Sweetnam did eventually dart through a gap, the result was already beyond doubt, but the score was nonetheless just reward for a relentless second-half effort.
Ulster: Stockdale, Faddes, Hume, McCloskey, McIlroy; Burns, Cooney; O’Sullivan, Herring, Moore; Treadwell, Carter (capt); Matty Rea, McCann, Timoney.
Replacements: McBurney, Reid, O’Toole, D O’Connor, Coetzee, Doak, Madigan, Moxham.
Munster: Daly; Nash, Goggin, R Scannell, L Coombes; Healy, Casey; O’Connor, N Scannell, Ryan; F Wycherley, Holland (capt); O’Donoghue, Cloete,O’Sullivan.
Replacements: Marshall, Kilcoyne, Salanoa, Ahern, O’Donnell, McCarthy, Crowley, Sweetnam.