O'Gara kicks points from pack's pressure

Munster 15 Ulster 9
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The Independent Online

Mick Galwey is planning to make sure that Leinster find 13 really is an unlucky number when Munster meet them in the final of the Celtic League at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday.

Leinster made it 13 straight wins with their 35-13 semi-final victory over Glasgow on Friday night before Munster booked their place in an all-Ireland final in Saturday's second semi-final.

Galwey, the Munster captain, was at the heart of his pack's dominant display against Ulster, the narrow margin of victory a false reflection of the forward superiority that left Ulster to live on the scraps.

"It is fantastic to have two Irish provinces in the final, it will make for a great day, but a very hard match," said the evergreen 35-year-old second row. "The finalists are the teams who won the pool stages of the competition, so I guess it is only fair that we should meet in the final.

"I hope we get the same support that we had against Ulster; they were superb, and, although there were no tries, it was an exciting game, real cup rugby. It is just great that Munster will be part of the final."

The boot of Ronan O'Gara settled the semi-final, the fly-half kicking five out of the seven penalty goal chances that the forward pressure forced Ulster to concede. "We played more of a pressure game than Ulster, and had more shots at goal," added Galwey. "It wasn't a classic but it was a great victory for Munster."

Munster were never behind after O'Gara had landed his first penalty after five minutes. But Ulster still had the favourites sweating in the closing minutes as they threw everything into attack when they scented there was an outside chance of snatching a place in the final.

David Humphreys, the fly-half with lightning hands, accounted for all of Ulster's points with three penalty goals, and their predicament was evident as he was forced to attempt two more from the halfway line, with both falling short. But when Ulster attacked with the ball in hand in the dying moments it was Humphreys and the dashing full-back Paddy Wallace who had the Munster cover on the run.

Anything other than a Munster victory would, however, have been a gross injustice to Galwey's pack who, though clearly missing the presence of the injured David Wallace, had the game in their grip virtually from start to finish.

Ulster had no answer to their dynamic driving mauls in particular, but the Leinster pack on Saturday will be a different matter, altogether. No team from Ireland, Scotland and Wales has been unable to prevent the two form teams in the Celtic League from meeting in the final, but Munster may need more than just O'Gara's boot if they are to stop Leinster stretching their winning sequence.

Munster: Penalties R O'Hara 5. Ulster: Penalties D Humphreys 3.

Munster: D Crotty (J Staunton, 72), J Kelly (J O'Neill, 4-14), M Mullins, J Holland, A Horgan, R O'Gara, P Stringer, M Horan (M Cahill, 76), F Sheahan), P Clohessy, M Galwey (capt), P O'Connell (M O'Driscoll, 77), J Williams, A Quinlan, A Foley.

Ulster: P Wallace, S Coulter, A Larkin (R Constable, 56), J Bell, T Howe, D Humphreys, N Doak, J Fitzpatrick, P Shields, S Best, M Blair (P Johns, 40), G Longwell, T McWhirter (N McMillen, 63), A Ward (capt), R Nelson (M Crick, 60-63).

Referee: Iain Ramage (Scotland).

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