Ulster were comfortable winners over Munster at Kingspan Stadium in the first of this year’s Pro14 Christmas clashes.

But the visitors didn’t end empty handed, as replacement out-half Bill Johnston slotted a penalty with the last kick of the game to ensure they headed back south with a losing bonus point.

Ulster are up to second in Conference B, leapfrogging Scarlets, but remain ten points behind leaders Leinster who play Connact on Saturday. Munster remain second in Conference A six points behind Glasgow Warriors.

The main talking point in the game came after less than ten seconds when Robert Baloucoune avoided a red card for a reckless tackle on Darren Sweetnam.

The young Ulster wing took Sweetnam out in the air as he went to collect the kick-off and after consulting with the Television Match Official, referee Sean Gallagher decided that a yellow card would do.

Similar tackles this season have resulted in straight red and following their frustrations in Castre last week, Munster will feel they have got little off referees recently.

The fact that Baloucoune went on to score Ulster’s second try, the one that effectively sealed the result, rubbed further salt into the wounds.

FULL MATCH DETAILS

Munster were unable to take advantage of the extra man and failed to open the scoring, though they did take the lead after 12 minutes when JJ Hanrahan slotted a penalty.

Ulster hit the front just after the half-hour and they never relinquished that lead when captain Rob Herring crashed over from close range following a destructive line-out maul.

Billy Burns, taking over the kicking from John Cooney, who went off injured early on, converted and that left the scores 7-3 at the break.

The action up front was hot and heavy

Hanrahan closed the gap with a penalty after the restart, though Ulster stretched further ahead when Baloucoune slid over and Burns converted.

Shortly before the end Dave Shanahan, on at scrum-half for Cooney, snuck in for a third try for the home team.

Ireland Grand Slam winning captain Rory Best came on for Ulster in the second half and showed great off-loading abilities to set up his side’s second and third tries.

Bill Johnston took over the kicking duties for Munster and he took both of his opportunities, the second sealing the losing bonus point.

This wasn’t a pretty game and neither side were willing to try anything too expansive on a wet Belfast night.

But Ulster were good value for their win, outscoring Munster three tries to none. Munster rarely threatened their line and on the few occasions they got into the 22 sloppy play saw the ball coughed up.