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McKinney kicks Ulster to impressive victory

Ulster fly-half James McKinney starred with the boot as his side warmed up for the RaboDirect PRO12 play-offs in fine style with a 19-17 win over Munster at Thomond Park.

McKinney kicked 14 points while scrum-half Michael Heaney dotted down for his first Ulster try in perfect preparation for next weekend’s semi-final away to Leinster.

Munster meanwhile, who will travel to Glasgow Warriors next week, scored tries through Duncan Williams and Sean Dougall but slipped to back-to-back home defeats in the RaboDirect PRO12 for the first time since 2010.

Munster took the lead thanks to an Ian Keatley penalty on 11 minutes – expertly converted by the home fly-half in blustery conditions in Limerick.

And Munster soon stretched their lead against a youthful Ulster side, scrum-half Duncan Williams running in a fine try – his second of the season – in the left hand corner after the ball passed through numerous hands.

Keatley was on target with the conversion to hand Munster a 10-0 lead but just a minute later Ulster were back in the match with a fine try through their own scrum-half Heaney.

He sniped down the blindside before finding Michael Allen supporting on his right and the centre quickly returned the pass for Heaney to dot down for his first Ulster try.

Fly-half McKinney nailed the conversion to bring Ulster to within three before there was a lengthy stoppage in play following a nasty looking injury to the visitors’ No.8 Nick Williams.

On came Conor Joyce but the loss of Williams did little to affect Ulster, who pulled level on 36 minutes thanks to a fine McKinney penalty into the wind.

Half-time came with the sides locked at 10-10 and on 47 minutes, Ulster went ahead for the first time in the match following another excellent penalty from McKinney following an infringement from Paul O’Connell.

Munster hit back straight away however. Ulster gathered the restart but Munster turned the ball over and the visitors were unable to deal with Keatley’s grubber kick and Dougall pounced on the loose ball to dive over.

Keatley added the extras to put Munster 17-13 to the good but Ulster would not lie down and on 53 minutes they were within a point thanks to another McKinney penalty.

And with 15 minutes to go Ulster were awarded a further penalty after a Munster infringement at the scrum and McKinney again continued his impressive form to put his side 19-17 ahead.

Munster set about laying siege to the Ulster try-line and with ten minutes remaining they had a scrum deep in enemy territory, but as they worked the ball wide, O’Connell knocked on.

The host side kept coming and went through phase after phase but they couldn’t find a way through the resolute Ulster defence.

JJ Hanrahan missed a late drop goal for Munster and there was late drama when the full-time whistle was blown following an Ulster scrum, only for referee Nigel Owens to bring play back and award a penalty after Sean Doyle used his hand to keep the ball in the scrum.

Hanrahan was off target with the penalty from the halfway line however, ensuring an impressive win for Ulster.

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