|Tries: Cooney, Moore 2, Timoney, Hume Cons: Cooney 3, Doak Pen: Cooney|
|Munster (7) 17|
|Tries: Kleyn and Earls 2 Con: Carbery|
James Hume was a star as Ulster defeated Munster at Kingspan Stadium to reach the United Rugby Championship semi-finals.
John Cooney's score opening and a Stewart Moore double boosted Ulster to a 19-7 halftime lead. Jean Kleyn got the away team's first-half attempt.
Keith Earls scored Munster two second-half tries, but Nick Timoney's and Hume's scores secured an Ulster win.
Ulster will face Edinburgh or the Stormers during the four remaining matches.
This result will keep Ulster's hopes alive of claiming a first trophy in 2006 alive, but it is disappointing for Munster who now must look ahead to a new era. Johann van Graan, the head coach, will soon be departing to take over at Bath.
After three consecutive defeats by the URC and a European exit at Toulouse's hands, Munster defeated Ulster 24-17 in Belfast on April 22nd. The northern province's season looked in danger.
After securing a top four finish with hard-fought victories over Edinburgh, the Sharks and the Titans, Ulster kept their late-season momentum by taking a Munster-strewn side to the Belfast sunshine.
Dan McFarland can now look forward for a trip either to Edinburgh or the Stormers. They will be facing each other on Saturday evening.
Moore doubles to help Ulster gain a strong lead
Cooney's 10th minute opening try was scored in some strange circumstances. Hume, who was preoccupied by a scuffle involving Munster's Alex Kendellen and Ulster captain Iain Henderson, gave Cooney a quick tap penalty. Cooney crossed the line unchallenged.
Munster was not rattled by this, however. The visitors quickly got back to level terms when Kleyn crossed the line following some fine work by Gavin Coombes. The score survived a TMO inspection for a possible knock-on.
Ulster continued to live dangerously, with Cooney reading the turnover to produce a critical intervention and stop Keith Earls from charging towards the tryline.
Robert Baloucoune was then to thank for Ulster's excellent individual play. The first was a stout tackle by the Ireland wing on Joey Carbery, which stopped the Munster flyhalf from finding Earls far out for a try.
Baloucoune saved Ulster's defence and provided the penetration for Ulster's second attempt. He took Hume's pass in his stride and charged through a gap to find Stewart Moore. Stewart Moore exchanged passes before finishing off a team move.
Munster's efforts to strike back fast for the second time, spearheaded by the impressive Coombes, were stopped when Josh Wycherley smashed the ball close to the Ulster posts.
33 minutes later, the visitors' misery grew when Hume found Moore wide for his second try. This was after a sustained Ulster attack which was temporarily stopped by Earls' well-timed challenge against Moore.
Cooney's conversion attempt was misjudged, but Moore's second attempt gave Ulster a commanding 12 point lead at the break. They extended it within three minutes of restarting with Hume at their heart.
Hume received a pass by Stuart McCloskey's midfield partner. He drove forward and passed it to Timoney, who was the flanker.
Ulster was close to giving up a 17-point lead against Sharks. They survived a scare only two minutes after Timoney scored. Coombes' score was overturned when he kicked the ball on his forearm, before grounding it.
Earls did score 54 for the visitors but Hume's try at the centre followed soon. This capped a remarkable performance in which Hume seemed to be at every Ulster move's heart.
Earls got his second with 10 minutes left, but it was not enough as Munster were left to rue their sub-par performance and Ulster celebrated redemption after being beaten away at home by their inter-provincial rivals earlier.
Ulster: S Moore, R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, E McIlroy, B Burns, J Cooney; A Warwick, R Herring, T O'Toole, A O'Connor, I Henderson (capt), M Rea, N Timoney, D Vermeulen.
Replacements: J Andrew, E O'Sullivan, G Milasinovich, K Treadwell, M Rea, N Doak, I Madigan, B Moxham.
Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, D de Allende, K Earls; J Carbery, C Murray; J Wycherley, N Scannell, S Archer; J Kleyn, F Wycherley, P O'Mahony (capt), A Kendellen, G Coombes.
Replacements: D Barron, J Loughman and J Ryan, J Jenkins. T Ahern. C Casey, B Healy, C Cloete.