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Ulster Secure Semi-Final Spot In Style

Ulster qualified for the last-four of the United Rugby Championship thanks to an impressive 36-17 victory over provincial rivals Munster in Belfast.

John Cooney marked his 100th appearance for the Ulstermen with 14 points, including the opening try, and there were also well-taken scores from Stewart Moore (2), Nick Timoney and URC player-of-the-match James Hume.

It was a disappointing end to Munster’s season – and Johann van Graan’s coaching tenure – with their best moments coming when Jean Kleyn and Keith Earls, who bagged a brace, both crossed the whitewash.

With a semi-final trip to either DHL Stormers or Edinburgh to come, Ulster head coach Dan McFarland said: “Does it feel like an important psychological step? In the context of the season, definitely. It certainly is for me. We played two games against Munster and we didn’t play very well in either. Then tonight, we executed.

“We put a lot of pressure on them. They ended up making a lot of mistakes which is probably because of the fact they were chasing the game.

“We will take confidence into the semi-final. It is the hot end of the season. We are going to be travelling next week so we know how difficult it is to travel and win games. We will have to be on the money next week.”

Van Graan commented: “Utterly disappointing. For us as a group, that wasn’t good enough. Two main things stood out – discipline-wise we just gave Ulster access.

“We had more than enough opportunities and just couldn’t finish, even though we scored three tries. We’ve got to own that as a group, we came here to win and we were a long way short tonight.

“From a team perspective, the last two games (defeats to Leinster and Ulster) weren’t good enough. We’ll have to do our end-of-season review, own that as a group and then move forward.”