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HIGHLIGHTS: Munster Rally Late to Beat Spirited Zebre

Munster were made sweat after Zebre put up a big fight in Conference A

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Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Munster were far from comfortable as they defeated a courageous Zebre side 31-12 with a late scoring spree at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

The home side were expected to win with ease against Conference A’s bottom team but Zebre made it anything but easy.

The Italian team got off to a flying start as Jamie Elliot scored a try in the left corner after just eight minutes, with the kick missed it remained 5-0.

However. 10 minutes on at it was 12-0 to the visitors as a kick in behind the Munster defence allowed Roberto Tenga to touch down for his side’s second try of the evening, which Carlo Canna converted.

The hosts were made to wait until just before the interval to get on the scoreboard as Jeremy Loughman got over through a rolling maul. The conversion was missed leaving the half-time score at 12-5 to the away side.

12 minutes after the break and Munster were level thanks to a Rhys Marshall try from another maul. Sub Tyler Bleyendaal knocked over the kick from the touchline to make it 12 all.

Chris Cloete was sin-binned before the hour mark, and the home side were lucky not to go behind again as Zebre missed some kickable penalties.

However, Darren Sweetnam put the men in Red ahead with less than a quarter of the game remaining as he finished in the corner. The kick was
missed but for the first time in the game Munster were in front.

Less than 10 minutes on and they increased their lead curtsy of another sub Niall Scannell and another maul to secure the bonus-point.

The extras were taken well, and Mike Haley rounded off the comeback with a fifth try late on, again the conversion was scored to make it 31-12 at full-time.

The win leaves Munster in second-place in Conference A, three points adrift of leaders Glasgow with three game to go. On the other hand, Zebre remain bottom with only three wins this season.

Match Highlights:

Pro14

Ulster announce 4 more contract extensions

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(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

John Andrew, Kieran Treadwell, Andrew Warwick and Nathan Doak all commit to Ulster until at least June 2023.

Ballymena-born, John Andrew, who scored a hat-trick of tries against Edinburgh in November to help cement the bonus-point win over the Scottish side, has put pen-to-paper on a new two year deal.

The hooker, who came through the ranks of the Ulster development system is known for the athleticism and intelligence he brings to the game. Of today’s news, Andrew, said:

“I’m very happy to have signed-on for the next couple of years having really enjoyed this season so far, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic. I’m excited to have the chance to be playing in front of our fans again at Kingspan Stadium whenever that may be in the future.”

Of the announcement, Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said: “John has demonstrated how valuable he is to the Ulster set-up – he has had some outstanding performances this season against the likes of Glasgow, Dragons and Edinburgh. He is a very proud Ulsterman who is dedicated to both his own and the team’s development.”

25-year-old lock, Kieran Treadwell, who will hit his 100 cap milestone on his next appearance for the province, has consistently delivered for Ulster since arriving in 2016. The Ireland-qualified player is known for his exuberant running and ball-carrying, which is a skillset he is set to continue to bring to the squad over the next two years. On choosing to remain at Ulster, Treadwell, said:

“I really appreciate the opportunity to continue playing in the Ulster shirt. The province has welcomed me with open arms, and it is an honour to represent a club with such great values at the heart of it. I look forward to the seasons ahead – and to once again have the opportunity to feel the energy from the 16th Man in Kingspan Stadium as soon as that is possible.”

McFarland added: “Kieran has really bought into the team culture since joining us in 2016. He brings a lot of athleticism, to both his set-piece and loose play, and is still a young player. I’m very pleased Kieran is going to be a part of our growth over the next two years.”

Andrew Warwick, a Ballymena native, will continue to bring his combative nature and technical excellence to the squad in the years ahead. Since he made his senior Ulster debut against Cardiff Blues in 2014, Warwick has racked-up 128 appearances for the province – including most recently when he played an important role in this season’s Guinness PRO14 Inter-provincial fixtures. Of his future with the club, Warwick, said:

“I’m delighted to have extended my contract with Ulster – it’s always a privilege to represent my home province. I look forward to continuing to do my part to help the team be successful, and the coaches have created a great environment to keep improving as a player. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of this team.”

McFarland added: “Andrew is an important member of our squad as he demonstrated most recently against Connacht and Munster during the festive Inter-pros. A quality scrummager and hard worker in the loose, Andrew adds a lot of experience and technical excellence to our team.”

Completing today’s line-up is 19-year-old scrum-half, Nathan Doak, from Lisburn who made his senior debut against Munster in December – 11 years to the day since he ran out as a mascot against the same opposition.

The youngster played an important role in getting Wallace High School into the Danske Bank Schools’ Cup Final in 2020, before the onset of COVID-19 resulted in the cancellation of the match. Doak has also made his presence felt in the recent Ulster ‘A’ games, with an impressive unbeaten run for the province this season, including most recently a home victory over Leinster ‘A’.

Commenting on his deal, which will see Doak spend one year as a Development player before being upgraded to a Senior Professional contract for the following season, he said:

“I am delighted to have signed a new contract with Ulster Rugby to extend my time with the club for a further two years. I am looking forward to working with the Senior team full-time, and to develop further as a player. It is an exciting time for the province as we are building on our ambitions to win silverware, and I hope I can be a part of that moving forward.”

Commenting on the last signing to be announced today, Dan McFarland, concluded: “Although Nathan is not long out of school, he has already played for over a year with Ulster ‘A’ – a team that reached the Celtic Cup final in 2019 – and this has held him in good stead for this season’s ‘A’ Inter-pros. We are looking forward to continuing to support Nathan’s development over the next 2 years.”

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Pro14

Ulster announce batch of new contract extensions

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Two of Ulster’s most exciting and dynamic wing talents have today pledged their futures to the province alongside the experienced heads of Ireland cap, Luke Marshall, and lock, Alan O’Connor.

Winger, Baloucoune, has continually impressed with his agile performances for the Ulster men which have already earned him a call-up to the Ireland development squad since his debut in October 2018 against Dragons

With a return from injury on the horizon, it’s not long before fans will once again be able witness the familiar sight of the Enniskillen native’s charge for the try line. Of his two-year extension, Baloucoune, said:

“I’m excited to be part of this Ulster team, and what we can strive to achieve for in the near future. I’d like to thank the coaching staff and physios who have helped me through my long-term injury this season and I can’t wait to be back playing again.”

Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, said:

“Rob has been in sensational form for us and has proven himself to be a prolific try-scorer as well as a superb defender. He’s been unlucky with injury this season, but he is not far off making his return which we’re all looking forward to.”

Ballymena-born, Luke Marshall, who has made 144 appearances for Ulster to date, is also set to remain at Kingspan Stadium until at least June 2023. The centre who is known as a combative, strong-running midfielder, has consistently performed for the province since joining the Ulster Academy in 2009. On the announcement of his extension, Marshall, said:

“I am happy to be staying on with Ulster as I feel we are building towards something special – especially with such an exciting young squad. It is a privilege to continue to represent my home province – and since my wife gave birth to our son three months ago, I am hopeful that he will be able to come and watch me play at Kingspan Stadium in the next couple of years.”

McFarland added: “Luke is one of our longest-serving players and brings an excellent ability to read the game and organise defences. I’m delighted that he’s committed to Ulster for a further two seasons, and we look forward to also seeing him back from injury soon.”

Lock, Alan O’Connor, is known both on and off the pitch for his leadership abilities with the 28-year-old recently captaining the province in the landmark win over Connacht at the Sportsground in December. Speaking of his contract renewal, O’Connor, said: 

“I’m delighted to have signed on with Ulster for another two years. I’m really looking forward to continuing this journey with a great group of lads – it’s been a great experience so far. We, as a team, have grown so much over the last couple of years and we will keep growing and improving – to be part of that is very exciting.”

McFarland added: “Al has been a vital member of our squad for some time now. He is a player who epitomises the competitiveness and bite we expect at Ulster. It is because of this he has earned the honour of captaining the team on many occasions.”

Completing today’s announcements is 20-year-old Aaron Sexton who, since entering the Ulster Academy system in the summer of 2019, has already made his mark – most recently through his involvement in the win against the Leinster ‘A’ side, which saw Sexton contribute two match-defining tries. 

The young player from Bangor will spend one year as a Development player, before being upgraded to a Senior Professional contract for the following season. Of the news, Sexton, said:

“It means a lot to me reaching this next step in my career, and I can’t thank everyone enough who helped get me to where I am. I’m really looking forward to working hard in the months ahead having had my first taste of senior rugby this year.” 

On the last of the signings to be announced today, Dan McFarland, said: “Aaron has put in some really encouraging performances for Ulster in recent Inter-provincial ‘A’ games and IRFU Academy Sevens tournaments by demonstrating his next level speed and try-scoring ability. He earned himself an opportunity at senior level against Edinburgh, which we hope is the first of many senior appearances for Aaron in the future.”

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Dan McFarland extends stay with Ulster for a further two years

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Photo By Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ulster Rugby Head Coach, Dan McFarland, has renewed his commitment to the province by signing a new two-year contract extension.

Since joining the club in August 2018, Ulster has regularly competed at the knock-out stages of both the Guinness PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup, including at the most recent Guinness PRO14 final – a first for the province in seven years. 

Of his contract renewal, Dan McFarland, said:

“I’m delighted to be signing again with Ulster. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two and a half years working and learning with some really good people, and I’m looking forward to continuing to help drive on our improvement as a group and as individuals.

“As a group, we are extremely ambitious in our aim to be consistently competing for championships. With exciting young talent continuing to emerge out of our Academy system, joining forces with the proven talent within our squad – many of whom have been recently recognised at international level – I look forward to what the weeks and months ahead hold as we take on our next challenges in the domestic league and in Europe this season.”

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, added:

“I’m extremely pleased to see Dan extend his commitment to Ulster Rugby, giving us the opportunity to continue to build on the fantastic work that he has done in his time here so far.

“It is plain to see, both on and off the field of play, the ethos that he has instilled in the group, and that is being borne out both in our performances and our results – a team of which the people of Ulster can be rightly and fiercely proud.  

“I’m looking forward to working with Dan in the coming years, to see where we can take this. It’s an exciting prospect.”

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