Malakai Fekitoa avoids red card as Munster fall to Ulster defeat
MUNSTER 14-15 ULSTER
Munster have lost their fifth match in seven league outings, despite keeping Malakai Fekitoa on the pitch after a high shot on David McCann.
Ulster had the better of the first half and scored early tries from Jordi Murphy and Tom Stewart, either side of a Jack Crowley penalty for the hosts.
At the end of the first half, Malakai Fekitoa looked to have stopped David McCann in his tracks with a firm tackle. When there was a break in play, though, the Television Match Official let referee Frank Murphy know there was an incident that required his attention.
Replays showed that the All Blacks international drove up with his shoulder, in the tackle, and connected with the head of the Ulster back-row.
As TV replays were shown on a loop, it looked bad for Fekitoa, and the dazed McCann, but Murphy settled on a yellow card after asking to watch the collision at normal speed.
Although Malakai Fekitoa may have been fortunate to avoid being red-carded, his stint in the sin bin meant the hosts were down to 14 men for the first half dregs and nine minutes after the break.
Ulster made the man advantage count, after the forwards had several pops at the line, when they spread play right and wide, and James Hume crashed over for his side's third try of the night.
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Munster fight back to make it close
Nathan Doak missed all three of his conversion attempts, meaning Munster were not out of sight, and Dan McFarland replaced the young scrumhalf with John Cooney for the second half. Munster were 15-3 down but narrowed the gap with two tries before Ulster sub Cormac Izuchukwu was yellow-carded for cynical play, after conceding a penalty.
Munster had their tails up, and opted for a set-play rather than a kick at the posts, after Marty Moore was penalised. Play spread to the right and sub Simon Zebo, making his first appearance of the season, teed up Shane Daly to score. Jack Crowley missed the touchline conversion by a hair's breadth and Ulster were 15-14 ahead, going into the final stages.
Ulster hogged the ball for most of the final stanza, but the Munster players repelled them on three different occasions with stout defence.
Murphy awarded Munster a penalty to get the hosts into the Ulster half for a final dice roll. It was not to be, though, as Duane Vermeulen stepped up with a late turnover to secure that Ulster win.
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