The inexperience of the teams coupled with the rain ensured a scrappy game throughout with Munster needing a late Jean Kleyn try to secure the win.
The Dragons started the better of the two with early pressure resulting in a try for Lloyd Fairbrother in the 14th minute. Josh Lewis converted from the spot and handed the Welsh side a deserved 7-0 lead a quarter of an hour in.
The next score didn’t come until the half hour mark with Bill Johnston slotting home a penalty for the away side to leave the score at 7-3 in the Dragons favour come half-time.
After the break the stop, start pattern continued in the rain.
The turning point came in the 56th minute when Dragons lock Matthew Screech was handed a yellow card after pulling down a ruck, following a period of sustained Munster pressure.
Munster failed to take their chances until the 63rd minute with Jean Kleyn touching down over the line. With the score at 8-7 the conversion was missed, and Munster had to hold out.
That they did with Lewis missing a late penalty opportunity to win the game for the Dragons.
After the game, Munster head coach Johann van Graan praised his young team and pointed to their outstanding work in the line-out as they won all of their 18 throws.
“I want to make a special mention for the whole squad,” he said. “They are the future of Munster. Scrum and line-out wise I’ll take that performance any day of the week,” he added.
Captain Tyler Bleyendaal also mentioned his delight with the win and the performance of the young players around him.
“This was a young team with a lot of changes so this game was a new learning for a lot of them. I was happy with how we stuck at it and ground out a win,” he said.
There is a break over the next couple of weekends for the provinces, with Munster hosting the Kings next on February 15th and will be looking to continue their run at the top.
Ulster to welcome 1,000 fans for Scarlets clash
Ulster Rugby last night announced that 1,000 supporters will be welcomed to the Kingspan Stadium this weekend. Statement from Ulster Rugby below:
The Ulster Men have played behind closed doors since the opening game of the season against Benetton Rugby when the club successfully trialled the safe return of spectators following extensive consultation with the IRFU, Belfast City Council and the Northern Ireland Executive.
All 500 pairs of tickets will be made available to #TogetherUlster Members only via an online ballot process. Members who applied for tickets to the Benetton match but missed out due to limited availability will receive priority in the ballot.
Sunday night’s match will feature a mix of seating and terracing in operation across all four stands and the East Terrace. Tickets are again priced at £20 each, allocated in groups of two with two-metre physical distancing factored in.
The online ballot will be open for 24 hours from 1pm on Tuesday 17 November on the Ulster Rugby Ticket Account Manager, and account holders can apply for one pair of tickets per every Adult #TogetherUlster Membership held. All successful applicants will be notified on Wednesday evening once the ballot has closed and tickets have been allocated. Members will then have until 1pm on Thursday 19 November to confirm their ticket purchase and process payment.
Bad news on the injury front for Munster back-rower
Munster medical department have issued the latest player update with Liam Coombes, John Hodnett and Alex McHenry all ruled out due to respective injuries.
The young trio sustained knocks in different training sessions and will not be available for this weekend’s clash.
Alex McHenry underwent surgery for a thumb injury and will not be available for the coming weeks, while Liam Coombes has sustained a minor hamstring injury.
Unfortunately, it is a longer-term outlook for John Hodnett who sustained an achilles tendon injury. The Academy back row will undergo surgery early next week before commencing his rehabilitation programme.
A fourth player is already self-isolating after returning a positive test result from Monday’s PCR testing. The player remains well, and no other players have been identified as close contacts.
Rea to win 50th cap v Cardiff
The 27-year-old Ballymena man made his Ulster debut against the Toyota Cheetahs in September 2017, and has already shown some excellent form this year when collecting the Player of the Match award in the season opener versus Benetton.
Rea will start at blindside flanker, with Jordi Murphy being retained at openside and Nick Timoney coming in to start at number eight. Adam McBurney will make his first start this season at hooker and is joined in the front row by Eric O’Sullivan – who scored his first Ulster try last week – and Marty Moore. Alan O’Connor retains his starting berth in the second row, and will be partnered with Kieran Treadwell, who is also making his first start this season.
Burns is one of four changes to the back line, with Stuart McCloskey also being released from international duties to start alongside Stewart Moore in midfield. Michael Lowry comes in to start at full-back, and he will be joined on the wings by Louis Ludik and the returning Craig Gilroy.
Luke Marshall is set to make his return from injury to make his first appearance this season as he is included among the replacements. Alby Mathewson and Academy back three prospect Ethan McIlroy will cover the backline along with Marshall. John Andrew, Jack McGrath, Ross Kane, Sam Carter, and Sean Reidy provide the forward options on the bench.
Issued by Ulster Rugby