After suffering two disappointing defeats to interpro rivals Leinster and Munster over the Christmas holidays, Ulster were determined to make amends this week against Italian side, Treviso. And that they did, after an enthralling first half performance from the Ulstermen saw the team score four tries, and bag a much needed bonus point win.
Treviso gained the first points of the night after gaining a considerable amount of ground, following an Ulster knock-on just 4 minutes into the game. Treviso fly-half Willem De Waal opted for the posts and slotted over his first kick of the game. Ulster 0 Treviso 3.
Five minutes later and it was Ulster’s turn to be awarded a penalty. Ian Humphreys, who made a welcome return from injury, took over kicking duties once again and easily landed his first attempt of the night. Ulster 3 Treviso 3.
Another knock on from Ulster on 10 minutes, briefly placed power back into the hands of the visitors, and they moved towards Ulster’s 22 before De Waal attempted a drop goal which went wide of the posts.
The resultant quick throw-in from Humphreys to Trimble provided the Ireland centre the perfect opportunity to create some space. Running an excellent line, Trimble sprinted past the Italian defence before offloading to Faloon. Faloon also made a good few yards before a quick exchange to skipper Rory Best, set up Ruan Pienaar to dive over the line. Humphreys added the conversion, bringing the score to Ulster 10 Treviso 3, with just thirteen minutes played.
A knock on from Chris Henry on 18 minutes, after Ulster had the put in to the scrum, allowed De Waal the chance to narrow the points’ gap. His kick was on target, taking the score to Ulster 10 Treviso 6.
However an infringement from Treviso minutes into the second quarter, meant Humphreys could cancel out De Waal’s previous attempt. Taken from half-way, Humphreys claimed another three points as the ball bounced off the right upright before dropping over the crossbar. Ulster 13 Treviso 6.
Ulster played the advantage from the restart which enabled Humphreys to feed D’Arcy who stormed down the field. He quickly offloaded to Spence who was unable to gather the ball, but quick thinking from the young centre saw him kick and chase before touching down just left of the posts. Humphreys once again added the extras, bringing the score to Ulster 20 Treviso 6.
De Waal attempted another drop goal on 27 minutes but it fell short of the posts.
Ulster seemed to have found the form they were missing against Leinster and Munster, when on 29 minutes, Trimble created another excellent line to cut inside the oppositions’ defence and leave them all desperately trying to catch him. A perfectly timed pass to Pienaar on his left shoulder and it looked certain that the South African was to score Ulster’s third try.
However he was stopped just short of the line by Treviso winger Andrew Vilk. Pienaar, facing giving away a penalty, had no choice but to throw the ball back and D’Arcy was the first to get to the loose ball. With no time to gather, D’Arcy copied Spence’s earlier move, to kick and chase and it came to fruition as the fullback touched down for Ulster’s third try. Humphreys converted, taking the score to Ulster 27 Treviso 6.
With 5 minutes of the first half remaining, a sudden sprint from Pedrie Wannenburg brought Ulster deep into Treviso’s half. The subsequent lineout was won by Ulster and a powerful drive resulted in a pile of bodies diving over the try line. Ulster were convinced the all-important fourth try had been scored, but the referee went to the TMO. A replay of the move confirmed the try had been grounded by Best. Humphreys missed the conversion but the home side were safely in the lead with a bonus point already secured. Ulster 32 Treviso 6.
As the teams emerged for the second half, there was one change for the Ulster side, with Paul Marshall taking over from Pienaar who had suffered a knock early in the first half.
Treviso had most of the possession for the third quarter and after a long period of recycled ball, the Italian side were eventually rewarded with a try on 49 minutes after lock Gonzalo Pedro crashed over the line. De Waal slotted the ball between the posts to reduce the points’ gap. Ulster 32 Treviso 13.
As the final quarter got underway, play slowed considerably with neither team making much progress. As the clock read 70 minutes, Treviso broke through Ulster’s defence, leaving the Ulstermen to run back and frantically defend their line. They worked hard to push Treviso back, and after some fantastic work from Henry, he managed to rip the ball from Treviso’s grasp and allow Wallace to clear from his own 22.
73 minutes played, and a set-piece from the lineout resulted in Treviso’s forward pack collapsing over Ulster’s try line. Video replays of the move showed D’Arcy and Barker had just managed to get under the ball and stop it from being grounded.
The remaining minutes turned out to be a sombre affair – a complete reversal of the beginning of the match – and both teams appeared to be content to wind the clock down. As the final whistle blew, Ulster celebrated their deserved win. Ulster 32 Treviso 13.
Thoughts on the game?
Last night’s result will have provided the Ulster team with a massive boost of confidence, ahead of their fixture with Biarritz next weekend, especially having lost (quite significantly) to Leinster and Munster.
No doubt they will be feeling the pressure ahead of the game, so if they know they are going into the game with a win behind them, it should take some of the stress off their shoulders.
If you look at the full 80 minutes, there were times when Ulster played some brilliant rugby and were creative, but there were other occasions when things seemed to fall apart, causing frustration among the players and supporters’ alike.
Treviso aren’t the strongest team in the Magners’ League and there were times when Ulster could have added to their points’ tally. Nevertheless, it has been a while since Ulster claimed a bonus point win – especially as it came in the first half – and one only hopes it will continue.
A number of players stood out for Ulster last night, none other than Andrew Trimble, and it was fantastic to see him playing at his best again. He created some excellent lines and was able to cut through the oppositions’ defence almost everytime he had the ball in hand.
D’Arcy and Humphreys also had a great game and have really made the respective shirts’ their own, as of late.
I was slightly confused at McLaughlin’s substition of Faloon however around the 50 minute mark. I’ll admit, I’m a big fan of Faloon, and believe he is a strong, natural openside who does his job effectively everytime he’s on the pitch. Watching the match, you could see that he was everywhere last night; making and taking tackles, always in support, gaining ground, disrupting the opposition, etc. and subsequently, was one of Ulster’s strongest players. I was therefore slightly baffled as to why he was replaced, with no disrespect to any of the other players, of course.
Ulster will have their work cut out next Saturday as they square up against Biarritz, however if they can replicate their first half performance for the full 80 minutes, I honestly believe Ulster could come away with the win.
How exciting will it be, if Ulster actually do defeat the French side next week?