Tadhg Beirne is the best player in the country, and has been for quite a while
MUNSTER 18-13 ULSTER
Peter O'Mahony was a late scratch from the Munster starting XV, but stand-in captain Tadhg Beirne more than made up for his absence.
O'Mahony was out for pre-match interviews with RTE and Premier Sports, and even took part in the warm-up at Thomond Park, but he pulled up before the team headed back to the changing room. Munster did not risk their flanker and Beirne was asked to captain in that blindside role.
Alex Kendellen, an academy prospect that got a two-year senior contract during the week, was not even in the match-day squad up until the O'Mahony injury. He ended up starting at openside and scored what turned out to the the match-winning try.
More on that later. For now, some Tadhg Beirne praise.
10 carries, 13 tackles and, crucially, four turnovers won for his side in an outrageously inspirational effort.
Munster needed someone to rally behind. They found it in Beirne, and he was ably supported by the lineout-stealing-son-of-a-gun Thomas Ahern.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) January 8, 2022
Tadhg Beirne inspires Munster turnaround
Only Ulster's players could possibly try to explain how they lost to Munster from a position of 7-0 up and with Simon Zebo red-carded for a high shot on Mike Lowry. The Monday morning review will be tough.
Munster wanted nothing more than to turn the match into a dog-fight, after Zebo's red. Ulster, perhaps buoyed by an early Rob Herring try, walked straight into that trap with their sleeves rolled up. Munster were narrow in defence and toughing it out. Ulster tried to go up the guts but got no more than a couple of Nathan Doak penalties.
Unable, or unwilling, to stick their neck out and put the ball through hands, in albeit slick conditions, Ulster could not pull clear. They were 13-6 ahead when Kieran Treadwell was yellow-carded, and Munster's blood was up.
When the space was there, out wide, Craig Casey took the gamble and Munster rewarded with a Mike Haley try. Even when Ulster were restored to 15 men, Munster had the momentum. With Beirne at his poaching, disruptive best, the hosts pressed up-field and Kendellen dived over to score after Fineen Wycherley went close.
Ulster still had the ball in the closing stages but Beirne extinguished all hope with his fourth and final turnover of the night.
Fitting that the final turnover of the night arrived courtesy of Tadhg Beirne 👑 pic.twitter.com/MAJ4qdBDAo
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) January 8, 2022
Second row or back row, it doesn't matter where Beirne starts. He has taken his 2021 form straight into the new year, and he will take some stopping.
James Ryan and Iain Henderson are two class operators, but Tadhg Beirne is the form second row in the country right and the battle will be who gets the honour of starting beside him in the Six Nations.