Ulster snatch late draw against Munster in PRO 12 thriller
A superb last minute conversion from Paddy Jackson ensured that the spoils were shared at the Kingspan Stadium as Ulster drew 23-23 with Munster to set up a dramatic clash next weekend to decide who will host the Guinness PRO12 semi-finals.
The game also saw Ulster's Iain Henderson red-carded late in the second half for leading with his head when hitting Ronan O'Mahony at a ruck, forcing the home side to finish the game with 14-men.
Ulster's hopes of hosting a semi-final now also look to be somewhat unlikely as they not only have to win at Glasgow next week but also have to hope that Munster and the Ospreys fail to taste victory.
Tries at the end of either half - the first a cracker from Tommy Bowe and Paul Marshall bagging the second - got Ulster back into a game which looked to be slipping away from them while Munster managed six penalties from Ian Keatley and a try from Keith Earls.
Ulster turned a 9-0 deficit round into a 10-9 lead right at the end of the first half through Bowe's dramatic try and then battled back from 23-16 and Henderson's red card to snatch the draw.
Keatley opened Munster's account after five minutes with a penalty after making a strong opening though they lost flanker Tommy O'Donnell to injury.
Keatley then made it 6-0 on the half hour after Ulster's scrum was penalised and that quickly became 9-0 after Henderson strayed offside at a ruck.
But with just two minutes left in the half, Ulster responded in dramatic fashion. Jackson kicked a 38th minute penalty after Munster's scrum was penalised and then, out of nothing, Bowe scored a scintillating try in the final minute of the half.
After Rory Best had secured a high ball, Ulster moved it wide and a deft pass from Henderson worked Bowe into space.
The Ireland and Lions winger dodged and swerved his way past several defenders to dramatically dive over the line and Jackson's conversion gave Ulster a 10-9 lead.
That quickly became 13-9 three minutes after the restart when Jackson kicked his second penalty but the visitors hit back 13 minutes in with Keatley's fourth penalty from right under the sticks cutting Ulster's lead to a point.
With Munster's scrum now really getting on top - Wiehahn Herbst had been taken off on 51 minutes - it was only a matter of time before points would come and Keatley duly delivered his fifth penalty on the hour.
Again Ulster looked to Bowe to ignite them and he scythed through a lineout only to throw a pass back inside which was never near Chris Henry.
Then just before the final 10 minutes, Paul Marshall - brought on and put on the wing for the injured Peter Nelson - took Earls out in the air, with Keatley's strike taking Munster's lead to 18-13.
Jackson cut this to two points after Munster strayed offside and then there was another dramatic break from Bowe which ended up with Dan Tuohy kicking away the ball with Ulster getting advantage from a knock-on.
But then the play was called back and after consulting with the TMO, Henderson was shown red for his smash on O'Mahony.
From there, Munster turned the screw with Earls scoring in the right corner after a line out maul though Keatley's conversion sailed wide.
But there was more drama with Paul Marshall scoring in the left corner in the final minute with Jackson's superb conversion drawing the sides level.