PA Sport - Fri, 19 Feb 22:42:00 2010
Ulster and the Newport Gwent Dragons could not be separated on the scoreboard and had to settle for a 22-22 draw which did little for either sides' XCeltic League play-off hopes.
The result though will have been much more valued by Paul Turner's Dragons, who battled back from a 17-6 deficit and who have only managed one league win away from Rodney Parade this season.
Man of the match Jason Tovey continued his good form by scoring 17 points with the boot, making six kicks from six attempts, while his opposite number Ian Humphreys had a mixed night with his kicking and was wide with a late penalty and drop-goal.
The sides exchanged penalties in the opening 20 minutes with Humphreys and Tovey bagging two each to tie the scores before the game exploded into life four minutes before the half-hour.
A Dragons midfield move broke down and Paddy Wallace hacked downfield. Aled Brew collected the ball but from the ruck, the clearance drifted infield and Ulster immediately countered to great effect. Humphreys fed Darren Cave who made a great burst and fed Dan Tuohy who then offloaded to Wallace, and the
Humphreys missed the extras but made amends with two more penalties before Tovey responded with two of his own to make the score 17-12 at the break.
The Dragons hit the ground running at the restart when hooker Steve Jones was driven over the Ulster line from a lineout and Tovey's conversion gave the Dragons the lead for the first time at 19-17.
But Ulster worked the ball from a lineout and with Wallace and Cave making headway the ball was spun through quick hands to put Simon Danielli in at the left corner for an unconverted score.
Ulster's lead was short-lived though as a snap Tovey drop-goal levelled the scores at 22-22. Humphreys had two chances to put Ulster back in front but he was just short with a 65th-minute penalty and then was wide with a late drop goal.
Munster lost three players to early injuries and had two sent to the sin-bin as they overcame Edinburgh 19-12 in a competitive clash at Musgrave Park.
Munster's best-laid plans were torn up at when they lost Donnacha Ryan, Paul Warwick and Niall Ronan to injury - all around the quarter-hour mark.
But, despite five missed place-kicks, Warwick's replacement, academy player Scott Deasy, stamped his mark on the game with a decisive 58th-minute try and Edinburgh just could not strike back.
Edinburgh looked the more threatening in open play, the injuries and a malfunctioning lineout did little for Munster's confidence and a David Blair drop-goal deservedly sent the Scots in front.
The hosts responded quickly and Ian Dowling was held up just metres out before fit-again prop Marcus Horan burrowed over from close range, crowning his first provincial start since October with a try. Deasy pulled his conversion attempt across the posts and Edinburgh, eager for work and protecting the ball well, set up Blair's first successful penalty on 25 minutes.
Deasy crashed a penalty of his own off the post, three minutes later, but he did punish an Edinburgh scrum infringement to move Munster two points clear.
Edinburgh nipped back ahead for half-time though, as a superb line break by Nick De Luca saw them rampage up close to the Munster line, Alan Quinlan was ruled offside and Blair booted his side into a 9-8 lead.
Deasy had the distance but not the accuracy from a long-range penalty just after the break, and an absorbing tie swung back in Edinburgh's favour when flanker Quinlan was sin-binned for a ruck offence and Blair converted the penalty.
Deasy missed an immediate chance to reply but held his nerve to fire over a 57th-minute penalty.
Off the restart, Munster snaffled back possession before Deasy broke the Edinburgh line, dangled a chip kick towards the line and took advantage of a favourable bounce to grab a priceless try. Deasy failed to convert but landed a later penalty to seal the match.
In the night's other match, Cardiff Blues shocked league leaders Glasgow Warriors, earning a comfortable 30-7 away victory.