Niall Murray wins this line-out for Connacht against Leinster in their URC game at the RDS on Sunday. [Inpho/James Crombie]

Healy is Munster's hero

Munster 15; Ulster 14

The curse of losing matches they should win remains a problem for Ulster while Munster are beginning to get the self-belief back that their franchise has the tradition to find a victory path from the most unlikely of situations.

When Ben Healy came off the bench at Ravenhill on Saturday, there were few in the crowd who worried that the understrength visitors could mount a finish to pip the hosts in the most dramatic of circumstances.

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It was the out-half’s first time in his provincial colors since the historic win over South Africa in November and his try on the cusp of 80 minutes was the catalyst for an unlikely comeback win.

The first half was all Ulster as Dan McFarland’s side eased into a 9-0 lead thanks to three John Cooney penalties and although Tom Stewart’s sin-binning led to some helter-skelter defending, the hosts led by that margin at the turnover stage.

When scrum-half Paddy Patterson nipped in from a ruck to touch down after four minutes of the restart the 9-5 scoreline meant a visiting comeback was possible. However, when winger Robert Baloucoune got across the whitewash on 67 minutes to put his side 14-5 to the good, it looked like curtains for Graham Rowntree’s side, particularly as they were operating without their two forward linchpins, Peter O’Mahony and Tadgh Beirne.

Throwing caution to the wind by bringing in Healy as a second playmaker alongside their outhalf starlet Jack Crowley, they began to play a more expansive game, albeit without reward initially. Indeed Baloucoune’s try seemed to have killed off their hopes as they fell nine points in arrears.

Needing two scores, they did what good teams do – they got them.

Healy took over the kicking duties and duly slotted a penalty on 73 minutes to open up the possibility of a late, late smash and grab victory as they now trailed by only six points.

Young Crowley began the move than led to the try by darting through midfield and then consistent Munster pressure allowed Healy to squirm over close enough to the posts to make the conversion almost a formality.

So a night of rejoicing for the southern province on their long journey home while the homesters are left wondering what they have to do to ignite their season into meaningful action.

Ulster: S Moore; R Baloucoune, J Hume, S McCloskey, J Stockdale; B Burns, J Cooney; R Sutherland, T Stewart, M Moore; K Treadwell, I Henderson (capt); G Jones, S Reffell, D Vermeulen Replacements: G Milasinovich for Moore (29), N Doak for Cooney (62), S Carter for Treadwell (62), E O'Sullivan for Sutherland (65), J Murphy for Jones (65), J Flannery for Burns (73), J Andrew for Stewart (76), E McIlroy for Stockdale (77).

Munster: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Antoine Frisch, Malakai Fekitoa, Keith Earls; Jack Crowley, Paddy Patterson; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Roman Salanoa; Jean Kleyn, Kiran McDonald; Jack O'Donoghue (capt), Alex Kendellen, Gavin Coombes Replacements: B Healy for Fekitoa (52), C Murray for Patterson (56), P Campbell for Earls (63), J Wycherley for Kilcoyne (65), S Archer for Salanoa (69), S Buckley for Scannell (69).

Ref: A Brace (IRFU).

Munster’s Jack Crowley was named Player of the Match in the URC game against Ulster in Belfast on Sunday. [Inpho/Ryan Byrne]

Cakewalk for Leinster 

Leinster 41; Connacht 12

There’s no better team than Leinster to take advantage and when Connacht arrived at the RDS with a less than full-strength team, you knew they were in danger of a spanking.

In fairness to the western province, they gave as good as they got for long periods but in the final chapter, they were overrun as Leo Cullen’s side bagged another victory with a bonus-point on Sunday.

The seven-try fest was by game’s end exhibition stuff whereas at the start they had to be diligent for everything they achieved. Connacht worked so hard to be only 19-12 in arrears at the short whistle that you felt they couldn’t keep up the pace – and ultimately that gut feeling proved right.

Two first half tries from David Hawkshaw and Tom Farrell kept them in the frame in a half when Liam Turner, Brian Deeny and the standout performer on the night, Jordan Larmour, touch down for the hosts.

Larmour led the charge against the wilting foe on the changeover with another try which was augmented by scores from Rob Russell, Ryan Baird and replacement Josh van der Flier made it a  29-point win for the table-toppers. The only minus on the night was the loss of skipper Jonny Sexton to a facial injury, something that will not keep him from preparation with the Irish camp for the upcoming Six Nations championship.

Connacht played far better than the scoreline indicates, particularly when you factor in that three of their star players, Bundee Aki, Finlay Bealham and Mack Hansen were unavailable either through injury or Ireland participation.

Larmour’s return to form will be a boost for Andy Farrell and his Ireland set-up as they prepare to build on last year’s results in this World Cup year.