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Munster ended Ulster's 11-game winning start to the RaboDirect PR012 season with a 24-10 win at Thomond Park.
Starved of territory for long stretches of a pedestrian first period, a late push yielded a penalty try for Munster who went to the break 10-3 in front.
The gap was out to 14 points when Simon Zebo split the defence five minutes after the break, and Peter O'Mahony soon crashed over for the third try.
But Munster were unable to fashion a fourth for the bonus point, and Ulster gained a late consolation score when replacement Ali Birch finished off a fine three-man move.
Munster's powerful front five got the upper hand in the game's opening scrum, teeing up a third minute penalty which out-half Ian Keatley comfortable slotted.
Both sides were guilty of coughing up possession, Damien Varley's side entry at a midfield ruck allowing O'Connor to kick the Ulstermen level.
The Munster forwards - with BJ Botha to the fore - hammered away through a series of five-metre scrums, and the pressure eventually told as referee Alain Rolland awarded a 34th minute penalty try.
Keatley converted and Ulster came under further pressure after scrum half Paul Marshall saw yellow for 'unnecessary use of the boot' on Donncha O'Callaghan at a ruck.
O'Connor stepped in to play scrum half while Marshall was off, and just before his return Zebo struck for the hosts' second try.
Fed in midfield, Zebo sauntered through an ominous gap with Lewis Stevenson caught for pace and the covering Adam D'Arcy unable to catch the Munster winger as he glided in by the posts.
Keatley added the extras for a 17-3 scoreline and five minutes later, O'Mahony bounced off Luke Marshall's tackle and with support from O'Donnell, muscled over on a close range drive.
Luke Marshall continued to pose problems with some strong carries, but Munster had the game within their grasp if not the bonus point.
It never came and although the result sees Munster now just a point behind the second-placed Scarlets and ten behind front-running Ulster, they will be frustrated by how they finished this derby tie.
Ulster's replacement scrum half Michael Heaney opened up space with a snappy injury-time break. His flicked pass inside reached Robbie Diack, who fed the onrushing Birch for a well worked try which Olding converted with the last kick.
|Friday 20th December|
|19:05||Cardiff Blues vs Ospreys|
|19:05||Ulster vs Zebre|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Benetton Treviso|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Leinster|
|Saturday 21st December|
|17:00||Connacht vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|19:15||Munster vs Scarlets|
|Thursday 26th December|
|14:00||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|15:05||Edinburgh vs Glasgow|
|17:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|Friday 27th December|
|19:15||Munster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 28th December|
|15:00||Benetton Treviso vs Zebre|
|18:45||Leinster vs Ulster|
|Wednesday 1st January|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|18:05||Glasgow vs Edinburgh|
|Friday 3rd January|
|19:05||Ulster vs Munster|
|Saturday 4th January|
|15:00||Zebre vs Benetton Treviso|
|15:00||Connacht vs Leinster|
|15:00||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 8th February|
|15:00||Benetton Treviso vs Scarlets|
|15:00||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Edinburgh|
|15:00||Glasgow vs Connacht|
|15:00||Zebre vs Leinster|
|15:00||Ulster vs Ospreys|
|15:00||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 15th February|
|15:00||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|Saturday 30th November|
|Leinster 36 - 19 Scarlets|
|Benetton Treviso 26 - 26 Cardiff Blues|
|Zebre 11 - 19 Ulster|
|Friday 29th November|
|Edinburgh 43 - 10 Connacht|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 14 - 18 Munster|
|Ospreys 16 - 28 Glasgow|
|Sunday 24th November|
|Benetton Treviso 20 - 21 Leinster|
|Saturday 23rd November|
|Cardiff Blues 10 - 31 Munster|
|Connacht 21 - 24 Scarlets|
|Ospreys 30 - 20 Zebre|
|Friday 22nd November|
|Glasgow 8 - 23 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Ulster 41 - 17 Edinburgh|
|Saturday 2nd November|
|Munster 12 - 6 Ospreys|
|Scarlets 17 - 9 Ulster|
|Connacht 12 - 19 Glasgow|
|Cardiff Blues 17 - 13 Benetton Treviso|
|Friday 1st November|
|Edinburgh 25 - 23 Zebre|
|Newport Gwent D'gons 19 - 23 Leinster|
|Saturday 26th October|
|Leinster 16 - 13 Connacht|
|Friday 25th October|
|Edinburgh 20 - 13 Benetton Treviso|
|Glasgow 6 - 13 Munster|
|Ulster 39 - 21 Cardiff Blues|
|Ospreys 40 - 17 Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Zebre 16 - 16 Scarlets|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Stuart Barnes with skysports.com