Tuesday 19 February 2019

Cooney main man for Ulster as he takes advantage of Arnold's red card

Ulster 24 Munster 17

John Cooney reacts after his try is disallowed. Pic: Sportsfile
John Cooney reacts after his try is disallowed. Pic: Sportsfile

John Cooney was the main man behind what the Ulster scrum-half called "an unbelievable comeback" against Munster at The Kingspan Stadium last night.

"It is just one of those games I will never forget. We showed a lot of heart," he said.

The northern province roared back from a 17-point deficit to even claim a bonus-point in victory.

They were helped in no small way by referee Sean Gallagher's decision to give centre Sam Arnold a red card in the second half.

Initially, the Munster maul was turned into a weapon twice as McCloskey denied Calvin Nash a certain try.

It was a temporary reprieve, Munster's next maul travelling all of seven metres for hooker Niall Scannell to claim a 15th-minute try.

For once, Ulster executed well down the blindside for Cooney to test out Simon Zebo's defence. The scrum was just as dominant as Munster's lineout, leading to yet another penalty and maul with Scannell the man in the van for JJ Hanrahan to miss his third kick for the conversion.

Munster's scrum-half Duncan Williams stabbed a grubber through to force a five-metre scrum out of Charles Piutau.

It took three resets to convince referee Gallagher that a penalty try was the only option.

When Ulster gambled on going for gold instead of three points, Jack O'Donoghue came straight through their maul to maintain their 17-0 lead at the break.

There was more spite on Ulster's return as the aggression, so sadly absent in the first half, was instantly apparent.

It looked like Cooney had struck back until Gallagher judged that flanker Greg Jones had held on to John Ryan beyond the ruck.

Munster replacement Fineen Wycherley was binned as a result of accumulated penalties to leave just enough space for centre Darren Cave to cut through for a try.

Gallagher viewed Sam Arnold's destructive hit on Christian Lealiifano as worthy of a red card.

Cooney added the conversion and the whole complexion of the game had changed.

Centre Cave's kick was taken on the bounce by Craig Gilroy for a second try in three minutes for 17-12 in the 63rd minute.

The comeback was complete when Lealiifano flipped a ball right for Gilroy to add his second and for Cooney to crown it with the conversion in the 75th minute.

It was left to Robert Lyttle to capture the bonus-point by outstripping Chris Cloete into the left corner.


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