Main RSS Feed Forum RSS Feed

Search

Next Fixture

No Upcoming Fixtures Available

Latest Poll

Caullie Lug 16/17




View Results

Log In






Forgot Password

View Article

ULSTER PREVAIL IN BELFAST THRILLER

Ulster: 14 (14) Edinburgh Rugby: 7 (0)



It seemed apt that Alan Solomons' contract extension until the end of the 2016/17 season was announced in the run-up to this evening's match, given his successful spell at Ravers.  Together with Stevie Scott, he has certainly built an Edinburgh pack that is well-suited to inclement weather such as that seen in Belfast as storm Desmond passed through.  Even with the recent spate of injuries, it is a formidable unit and gave the visitors some hope that they could come away with the points and start to open a gap between the top six and the rest going into the next round of European matches.  The Gunners fielded just about the best pack they can currently put out, with a bit of tinkering in the back division.  Sean Kennedy would have a job on his hands against Ulster's perennial key man, their South African import Ruan Pienaar.

Ulster had the wind at their backs in the first period yet started as if they were playing into it, keeping ball in hand and probing on the wings. When Pienaar did kick tactically, after Ulster had taken scrum ball against the head, he knocked a fantastic touchfinder into the corner. Edinburgh seemed to have tidied up the lineout but Kennedy's clearance was charged down and Burleigh was forced to carry into touch a couple of metres out.  Ulster mauled, Henry broke off and was stopped short, Pienaar was tackled by Coman from an offside position and the referee rightly awarded a penalty try.  The skipper was a mite lucky not to be carded and Ulster were 7-0 up on five minutes following Jackson's easy conversion.  

Williams could have had no complaints about being penalised handling in a ruck immediately afterwards to give Cuthbert a long penalty chance into the wind but he was just short.  They had had little field position and one felt that they should have kicked to touch instead.  Then a lovely break off scrum ball saw Scholes score a majestic try after stepping Fife beautifully.  Jackson's conversion put the home side 14-0 up on 12 minutes and they were looking good, parrticularly as they were doing very well against the visiting scrummage. Given the strength of the wind, the Gunners needed to batten down the hatches and hold out to the break, but that was 25 minutes away.

There were too many Edinburgh handling slips, but the Gunners were starting to make a progress keeping the ball in hand as the first quarter came to an end. The referee warned Ulster after McCall and Williams had both executed borderline hands-free tackles.  But another thrilling Ulster break saw them back pounding the Edinburgh line.  Super Gunner scramble defence eventually forced the Williams knock-on on 23 minutes as Coman came off for a head injury assessment, Watson replacing him. Kennedy cleared well from the defensive pick and goes.

Hardie was putting in a massive defensive shift as the Gunners kept hanging in there, a couple of big hits halting Ulster momentum as Nelson became the third Ulster player of the half to retire injured. It was one of those awful ankle injuries that make for unpleasant viewing.  Meanwhile, Coman returned to the fray on the half hour.

Edinburgh were starting to make some ground now, with Fife and Kennedy really shining as the young scrummie cleared breakdown ball quickly and the Embramen started to find some space wider out.  A try now would be very handy, particulary as the visiting scrummage was starting to turn the screw.  But Ulster turned over ball after repelling repeated phases in the red zone.  Scholes came off for a head assessment on 35 minutes.  Then Ulster broke after gathering a loose Kennedy kick but totally blew a great try-scoriong opportunity with a knock-on deep in the enemy red zone.  Great scramble defence, great Edinburgh spirit with three minutes left until the changeover. And they cleared their lines very well to the Ulster 10. A thrilling Cuthbert break saw the Gunners back into the Ulster 22 but they were not able to secure points as the half came to a close.

Strange being 14 points down and thinking it's all to play for, but the Gunners were still very much in this match. Ulster were beginning to look a bit rattled while the Embramen had shown a steely determination that suggested that they were yet capable of winning this one.  Would they regret being shut out in the first period though?

After both sides had probed a bit, Edinburgh won a scrum penalty and Burleigh kicked deep into the 22 but Ford's throw was blown to the Ulster side allowing Pienaar to clear to the 22.  On 47 minutes, the Gunners replaced their entire front row. The pack drove the ball deep, then an inside pass from Kennedy to Hardie saw the openside come close.  The ball was shipped to Burleigh in traffic, the first five-eighth assessed his options and floated a delicate chip in goal for du Preez to touch down. Cuthbert goaled brilliantly from the corner for a 14-7 game and a subdued crowd at the Kingspan going in to the middle quarter.

Ulster hit back well, working their way upfield patiently. The impressive McCloskey barged his way to the line and could not have ben adjudged to have crossed under the Helu tackle.  The Irish TMO duly gave the attackinmg scrummage.  How would the new Edinburgh front row perform as Blair Kinghorn came on for Jack Cuthbert at full back? Pretty well, as it happened, and Ross was held up brilliantly as Ulster pounded the tryline.  Beautiful work by Burleigh, this time in defence.More brilliant defence of phase after phase until Jackson botched a chance in the corner.  It wouldn't have counted anyway, though, as the touch judge had spotted an Ulster neck roll, allowing Edinburgh to clear.Ulster were again penalised, this time for side entry at a rumbling Embra maul.

Dan Tuohy became the latest Ulster injuree on the hour with this match finely balanced.  Kinghorn looked very unlucky to be called for a forward pass from Helu as he scooted up the wing. The big man knocked a penalty to the 22 to put the Gunners on the attack for the first time in a while, despite the wind advantage.  But Ulster hacked a loose pass clear and were back on the attack themselves, their blocking runners opening up a gap on the right wing.

Former Ulster player Mike Allan came on on 67 minutes with a chance to torment his former colleagues.  But as the match went in to the final 10 minutes, Ulster were playing the match in the right place and it looked like they had crossed, but Burleigh was held back in defence by Henry and the TMO came into play.  The block had created the gap for the try and was duly penalised.  Henry's stupidity had cost his side an unassailable lead. A lifeline for the Embramen with a losing bonus, at least, in their grasp with five minutes left on the clock.

But it was a silly penalty by Sutherland at ruck time that gave Ulster some breathing space as they ran the clock down.   And it was the home side who eventually prevailed as they squeaked over the finishing line.  Ultimately, they'd taken their chances with the wind and played into the wind just that bit better.  The better side - just - won.

This was a fine, gutsy Edinburgh performance and bodes very well for the future, particularly going in to a key double header against London Irish in Europe.