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RaboDirect PRO12: Ulster beat Munster in top of the table showdown
- Blues avenge Dragons loss
- Glasgow game called off
- Ospreys seal Scarlets double
- Zebre see off Treviso
- Leinster tough it out
Ulster closed the gap on Munster at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 standings to six points after beating the pace-setting visitors 29-19 at Ravenhill.
Ruan Pienaar kicked five penalties and converted the first-half tries from Jared Payne and Darren Cave to claim a 19-point haul.
Despite Ulster leading 20-0 just before half-time, Munster battled back with tries from Ivan Dineen, Dave Kilcloyne and James Coughlan to close at one stage to 23-19 in what was an absorbing contest.
But Ulster held their nerve and Pienaar kicked his final penalty in the last minute as Paul O'Connell was sin-binned, allowing the home side to recover from their defeat to Leinster last time out.
Pienaar, taking over the kicking duties from Paddy Jackson, got Ulster under way after three minutes with a penalty and then there was a lengthy hold-up as referee Alain Rolland consulted with the television match official (TMO) over Felix Jones' dragging down of Craig Gilroy with a a possible try chance on offer.
Ulster put the ball in the corner from the penalty, and from the lineout Jackson's chip resulted in Jared Payne scoring to the right of the posts.
Munster's Ian Keatley was then wide with a seventh-minute penalty and Pienaar landed a monster penalty from just inside his own half to take Ulster to 13-0.
Keatley then missed a second penalty after 20 minutes which led to a period of Ulster domination, but Luke Marshall was hauled down near the line after Andrew Trimble's great break and then John Afoa's foot hit touch as he dived over on the right.
Ulster then scored a sensational try off a Munster turnover with Payne burning Paul O'Connell and setting Trimble free before Cave came in at an angle to score in the same corner where Afoa had been denied a few minutes earlier.
Pienaar's marvellous conversion made it 20-0 to Ulster, but the visitors immediately hit back and in the last play of the first half Dineen touched down.
Keatley again missed as he attempted to convert, with the ball bouncing off the post to narrow Ulster's lead to 20-5 at the turnaround.
Munster still had the bit between their teeth and after Keatley hit the post again in the second half with an early penalty shot, prop Kilcoyne was driven over from a lineout maul, with Keatley managing to kick his first points after four misses.
Pienaar was then well short with a 56th-minute penalty but made no mistake with a straightforward chance on the hour mark, a vital score to settle Ulster after conceding 12 points without reply.
But Munster again struck back after Rolland penalised Ulster - seemingly harshly - in the tackle zone. And another driving maul from a lineout take from Peter O'Mahony saw the red shirts rumble over, with Coughlan getting the 65th-minute touchdown.
Keatley again converted and Munster were just four points behind, but with 10 minutes remaining Pienaar slotted his fourth penalty to again nudge Ulster further in front.
Munster came again and were held up at the line before Ulster turned them over in a five-metre scrum courtesy of Afoa.
And then in the final minute, O'Connell was sin-binned by Rolland for back-chat after being pinged at the breakdown, and Pienaar did the necessary with the penalty.
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Guinness PRO12 Table
|Friday 26th December|
|14:05||Cardiff Blues vs Dragons|
|17:00||Munster vs Leinster|
|18:45||Ulster vs Connacht|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:40||Glasgow Warriors vs Edinburgh|
|17:15||Ospreys vs Scarlets|
|Sunday 28th December|
|14:00||Zebre vs Treviso|
|Thursday 1st January|
|14:05||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Cardiff Blues|
|17:00||Connacht vs Munster|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:35||Edinburgh vs Glasgow Warriors|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Zebre|
|14:40||Leinster vs Ulster|
|17:05||Scarlets vs Ospreys|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:35||Connacht vs Edinburgh|
|19:35||Glasgow vs Scarlets|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:40||Cardiff Blues vs Leinster|
|15:00||Zebre vs Munster|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Treviso vs Ulster|
|16:00||Ospreys vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|Wednesday 14th January|
|TBC||Leinster vs Newport Gwent D'gons|
|TBC||Scarlets vs Connacht|
|TBC||Edinburgh vs Ospreys|
|TBC||Ulster vs Benetton Treviso|
|TBC||Zebre vs Glasgow|
|TBC||Munster vs Cardiff Blues|
|Saturday 21st February|
|TBC||Benetton Treviso vs Cardiff Blues|
|Sunday 21st December|
|Dragons 25 - 11 Zebre|
|Saturday 20th December|
|Ospreys 31 - 20 Ulster|
|Glasgow Warriors 21 - 18 Munster|
|Friday 19th December|
|Cardiff Blues 21 - 9 Scarlets|
|Edinburgh 48 - 0 Treviso|
|Leinster 21 - 11 Connacht|
|Sunday 30th November|
|Glasgow Warriors 19 - 15 Dragons|
|Saturday 29th November|
|Connacht 14 - 8 Scarlets|
|Leinster 18 - 12 Ospreys|
|Zebre 18 - 10 Edinburgh|
|Friday 28th November|
|Cardiff Blues 36 - 25 Treviso|
|Munster 21 - 20 Ulster|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Edinburgh 28 - 13 Cardiff Blues|
|Treviso 24 - 24 Leinster|
|Friday 21st November|
|Ulster 25 - 16 Ospreys|
|Connacht 43 - 3 Zebre|
|Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow Warriors|
|Dragons 12 - 38 Munster|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com