In front of a home crowd at Deramore Park, Ulster Ravens secured a bonus point victory against the spirited Bridgend Ravens in the first game of their British and Irish Cup campaign.
An impressive performance witnessed a set of tries from Chris Cochrane, as skilful scores from Stuart Olding, Niall Annett, Neil McComb and Michael Heaney combined to drive the team towards a convincing dismissal of the competition’s debutants.
Try-scoring opportunities were created early on; with Ulster launching attacks in the opposition’s half, only for a lack of discipline to deny the hosts.
A period of possession, acquired at the hands of the Ulster troops lead Bridgend to claim the first try, as an audacious cross field kick instigated a Tom Grabham score.
Ireland Under-20s’ star Stuart Olding provided the first response, finishing strongly after a Chris Cochrane break sliced open the Bridgend defence.
A series of penalties saw the opposing Niall O’Connor and Ross Jones battle it out for a level half-time score, as excellent kicking displays from both sides dominated the opening forty.
The Ulster Ravens ran out in front come the second half, with Niall Annett touching down following an impressive passage of play which linked both backs and forwards.
As the score board began to build, captain Neil McComb charged over in the corner to capitalise on the momentum of his side. An exquisite flick pass from Niall O’Connor then saw Chris Cochrane home, as the youngster added a second to his tally shortly after to secure bonus point status.
The Ulstermen took their final bow through replacement Michael Heaney, who added to the spoils on the back of another scintillating run from Stuart Olding in the closing stages.
Although it took the arrival of the second half for the Ulster Ravens to reign supreme, this fine display will see them enter their second round match against Bristol next Sunday with confidence in their creative ability.
Ravens: Peter Nelson, Adam D’Arcy, Ricky Andrew, Stuart Olding, Chris Cochrane, Niall O’Connor, Blane McIlroy, Richard Lutton, Niall Annett, Conor Carey, Alan O’Connor, Neil McComb, Conor Joyce, Ali Birch, Roger Wilson. Replacements: John Burns, Kyle McCall, James Simpson, Sean O’Connell, Michael Heaney, Stuart McCloskey, Rory Scholes.