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EURO HOPES DASHED AT RAVENHILL

Ulster: 21 (5) Edinburgh: 13 (6)



The European campaign is effectively over for another season.    While Edinburgh played well at times at Ravenhill this evening, particularly in the second period, they just didn't quite have enough to prevail over grafting Ulster.  The Ulster pack set up the home win with a disciplined performance throughout.  But, as with their previous Heineken campaigns over the years, it was the Gunners' failure to take their opportunities that killed them.  Particularly in the abbreviated Heineken format, you cannot afford to slip up.  Embra will be looking back at the away game in Bath as the big missed opportunity and from then on, it was always an uphill struggle.  And tonight, when they needed the passes to stick, when they needed to take the right options in the dying minutes, their composure just deserted them.

This squad has made much encouraging progress in recent years.  Fourth place after Andy Robinson's arrival, then last season's second in the Magners, with the possibility of another decent placing this year.  But when it comes to the quasi-international level of the Heineken, they have again been found wanting.  That's disappointing, particularly when they have found themselves in perhaps the most winnable group they have encountered for some years.  There are no easy games at this level.  But they had beaten Ulster twice already this term before tonight; Bath remain in poor form; and Stade are in some disarray.  Edinburgh should be kicking themselves.  They have underachieved.

On an awful night in Belfast, Davie Young was carded early on, making his Heineken debut in his town of birth.  Ulster had won the toss and decided to batten down the hatches and play into the wind.

Paterson put Edinburgh in to the lead with a penalty on 22 minutes.  Ulster centre Darren Cave crossed for a try five minutes later, unconverted into the wind to see the home side take the lead.  But Mossy gave Embra the lead at the break with his second penalty on 36 minutes.  Yet a narrow advantage turning into the wind didn't look like being enough.  And Humphreys regained the lead for Ulster on 45 minutes with a penalty.

After conceding the penalty, Edinburgh enjoyed a spell of concerted pressure, running through the phases in the Ulster 22, but were turned over and Boss cleared very well.  The Gunners had been turning the screw, but on a night like this, any mistake allows the defending side to relieve the pressure.  Insult was added to injury as, after a scrummage, Boss celebrated his 100th appearance for Ulster on 56 minutes with a fine try, converted by Humphreys.  15-6 Ulster and Edinburgh's hopes of remaining in the tournament looked bleak.

There was plenty of time for Edinburgh to recover, though.  And it was time for cool heads.  Lions star Ferris was carded shortly afterwards with a quarter left.  Soon afterwards, Embra were pressing again five metres short of the Ulster line.  A few forward digs opened up a massive gap in the enemy defence.  The ball was shifted to the wing, where Jim Thompson crossed for his second excellent try in two weeks.  Captain Fantastic added the extras - 15-13 Ulster and game back on.   Edinburgh seemed to be making it over the gain line consistently and looked dangerous at times.

Ulster enjoyed some decent pressure around the Edinburgh 22, but the Gunners' defence looked sound.  Eventually, though, Ulster were awarded a kickable penalty after keeping ball through the phases, content to try to draw the infringement.  Humphreys nailed it - just - to reopen a five point lead with just over ten minutes left on the clock as local hero Ferris returned to the fray.  

As the clock wound down, Edinburgh had several pressure opportunities but little errors and wrong options taken allowed Ulster to clear.  As the match headed into the final five minutes, Edinburgh were again stuck in their own 22, needing to score a converted try to win as the rain poured down.  But the capital side were having to play too much rugby at the wrong end of the park.  Finally, another error gave Ulster a penalty in front of the Edinburgh posts. O'Connor's kick on the stroke of no-side denied Embra even a bonus point.

 

MAN OF THE MATCH: ISAAC BOSS

SCORERS:

Ulster: Humphreys 2P 1C, O'Connor 1P, Cave 1T, Boss 1T

Edinburgh: Paterson 2P 1C, Thompson 1T

TEAMS:

Ulster: J Smith; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, S Danielli; I Humphreys, I Boss; T Court, N Brady, BJ Botha; D Tuohy, E O'Donoghue; S Ferris, D Pollock, C Henry (capt). Replacements: A Kyriacou, B Young, D Fitzpatrick, R Caldwell, TJ Anderson, C Willis, N O'Connor, T Nagusa.

Edinburgh: C Paterson (capt), J Thompson, B Cairns, J Houston, T Visser, P Godman, G Laidlaw, A Jacobsen, R Ford, D Young, S MacLeod, J Hamilton, S Newlands, A MacDonald, R Grant Replacements: A Kelly, K Traynor, G Cross, C Hamilton, D Callam, R Samson, N De Luca, M Robertson.

Referee: Berdos (FFR)