Munster come back to beat Ulster and seal URC top spot

United Rugby Championship

Munster: (7) 29

Tries: Snyman, Nash, Daly, Clarke Pens: Crowley Cons: Crowley 3

Ulster: (17) 24

Tries: Herring, McCann, Rea Pens: Cooney Cons: Cooney 3

Reigning champions Munster finished top of the United Rugby Championship after overturning a half-time deficit to beat Ulster at Thomond Park.

The hosts needed victory to be sure of first place - and secure home advantage through the play-offs - but were 10 points behind at the turn after Ulster tries from Rob Herring and Dave McCann.

Graham Rowntree's bench proved telling as Munster turned things around in the second half, with Shane Daly's crucial 69th minute try helping to extend their winning league run to nine games and seal a home quarter-final with Ospreys next week.

Ulster, who were already assured of an away tie in the last eight, saw their losing bonus point guarantee Champions Cup rugby for next season.

Richie Murphy's side will face another Irish derby in the quarter-finals, meeting Leinster in Dublin next weekend.

Ulster struggled to get on the right of side of referee Frank Murphy in the early exchanges, giving away a series of penalties in the opening minutes.

It was after one such transgression that Munster went to the corner and threatened to claim the opening try through their maul.

While Ulster forced them to move the ball out from the set-piece, eventually it was RG Snyman stretching for the line to give his side the lead.

It was no less than Munster deserved for their superior start, Ulster struggling out of the blocks having lost Stuart McCloskey and Ethan McIlroy before kick-off, and then Kieran Treadwell after just five minutes.

The visitors would grow into the contest, however, with Ireland international hooker Herring scoring after breaking off the back of a maul.

They would take the lead through a John Cooney penalty and largely control the possession and territory for the remainder of the half.

Munster lacked momentum in their carries, although they did show flashes when getting the ball into space during broken play, but it was Ulster who deservedly added to their advantage before the turn.

After a Jack Crowley error gifted Ulster a scrum five metres from the Munster line, Ulster showed good patience in the tight exchanges before McCann burrowed over with the last play of the half.

With home advantage through the play-offs at stake, Munster started the second half with greater intent but a McCann intercept led to Crowley shipping a penalty. Cooney's attempt off the tee, however, came back off the left post.

Into the last half hour, there were three tries in 10 minutes.

With Munster's forward replacements making an impact, the home side started moving the ball better and, when Crowley's offload to Gavin Coombes opened up Ulster, Craig Casey's pass found Calvin Nash for the try.

Ulster, however, summoned the perfect response with Matty Rea crashing over just four minutes later after a huge break through the middle by Cormac Izuchukwu.

After Ulster fumbled the restart, this time it was Munster with the almost immediate response as Daly crossed in the corner.

Munster would take the lead in the 69th minute through their maul, replacement hooker Eoghan Clarke the one to dot down after his side had turned down the kickable penalty to pursue the win.

With an advantage for the first time since the eighth minute, Munster ended the game on the front foot with Crowley's late penalty making the win safe but not denying Ulster their crucial, and deserved, losing bonus point.

Munster: Zebo; Nash, O'Brien, R Scannell, Daly; Crowley, Casey; Loughman, N Scannell, Archer; Snyman, Beirne (capt); O'Mahony, Kendellen, O'Donoghue.

Replacements: Clarke, Ryan, Jager, Ahern, Coombes, Murray, Carbery, Hodnett.

Ulster: Moore; Lowry, Addison, Postlethwaite, Stockdale; Burns, Cooney; O'Sullivan, Herring, O'Toole; Treadwell, O'Connor (capt); Izuchukwu, McCann, Timoney.

Replacements: Stewart, Warwick, Wilson, Sheridan, Rea, Doak, Ewers, Sexton.