Monday 18 December 2017

Munster's greater need holds key to unravelling Ulster

THE Ulster locomotive must be stopped to keep the PRO12 League competitive, at least in terms of which club will top the ladder at the end of the regular season.

Munster will have all the motivation in the world. The bitter taste of last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final still lingers, Craig Gilroy sweeping around defenders with all the grace of a cheetah.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe (below) not only brings an 11-match unbeaten start to Limerick, but one founded on six away victories.

This is the mark of a squad imbued with strength of character. This was never better displayed than in their explosive destruction at Northampton Saints in the Heineken.

The fact that they could not follow that up at home to the same English club at Ravenhill was a reminder that they are far from the finished article.

Ulster have been able to cut down the other three provinces already this season. These all came in Belfast. The last four between these rivals has gone the way of the home club.

Munster coach Rob Penney will be keen to put his credentials up against Anscombe.

The former Canterbury coach arrived in Ireland with a far superior curriculum vitae.

But, these pyrotechnic occasions are not won on paper. Ulster have the all-important ingredients of momentum and confidence that can only come from winning.

Munster need a top-two finish more than most of the clubs around them given how they are smack bang in the middle of a transformation in their style of play.

The difference here is that the runaway leaders can afford to drop points by lowering their intensity a fraction. Munster's need is greater.

Verdict: Munster

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