Ulster miss out on PRO14 play-off spot after thrilling draw with Munster
Last Updated: 29/04/18 11:17am
Ulster saw their slim hopes of a PRO14 play-off place end after a fiercely-contested 24-24 draw against Munster at Thomond Park.
The visitors needed a bonus-point win to force Edinburgh to secure a point from their 1872 Cup encounter with Glasgow, and registered three first-half tries through Stuart McCloskey and two from captain Rory Best after Munster had opened the scoring through Duncan Williams in the Conference B contest.
The second half saw Munster fight back and mount early pressure on the Ulster defence as Robin Copeland scored, with the visitors unable to trouble the hosts' backline in a disappointing second period against their resurgent opponents.
Munster, who lost to Racing 92 in their Champions Cup semi-final last week, made 14 changes to their team, while Ulster made six alterations.
Williams crossed the whitewash inside the four-minute mark after he pinched the loose ball to dive over, but the hosts hit back almost immediately after Jacob Stockdale raced away before an offload enabled McCloskey to score.
After Ulster took the lead for the first time with a penalty through Jonny McPhillips, they lost their advantage after a fine run from Darren Sweetnam and good support work from James Cronin enabled prop Brian Scott to safely ground the ball for a converted try.
Within five minutes the visitors were back ahead through Best, who ended a well worked maul towards the try line and the Ireland captain scored his second try in similar circumstances to move within one score of the bonus-point target on the stroke of half-time.
Munster began the second period the dominant force and made the most of a yellow card to Luke Marshall when Copeland crossed the line for their third converted try, but were made to wait until the 67th minute to level the scoreline through a penalty from JJ Hanrahan.
Despite a very late concerted spell of pressure, Ulster, who will now face Ospreys in a Champions Cup play-off, were unable to find the all-important fourth try which confirmed Edinburgh as qualifiers for the play-off stages.