A late call on Thursday night resulted in a quick scramble for flights and low and behold by Saturday afternoon I found myself sitting in the GNC Stand at Welford Road amongst the Ulster players family and friends.
It had been a long day already, with a 5:00am start, and by the time kick off arrived it would be fair to say that a few refreshments had been enjoyed resulting in the game passing in a bit of a blur.
Despite the 30 – 10 scoreline Ulster didn’t play that badly with the game a marked step up from the match against Leinster last weekend though both teams did drift in and out of proceedings at various stages.
James McKinney didn’t get off to the best of starts with the ball going long at the kick off gifting Leicester a scrum on the halfway line. The out half made amends shortly after with a good tackle stalling a Leicester attack but the main talking point of the opening exchanges was a rampaging run by Tuohy which saw Toby Flood carried off moments later. There were some damming pictures of the contact in the English press on Sunday morning but in real time it looked more like Flood being too upright as he went in on Tuohy, travelling at full pace, and I was somewhat surprised that big Dan got carded for the clash.
Not much happened in Tuohy’s absence and it was Ulster who took the lead on the 30th minute with McKinney slotting over a penalty after an earlier miss from out wide. It looked as though Ulster had worked another chance minutes later as the referee played advantage. Strangely with no advantage taken the ref awarded a penalty to Leicester who made the most of the confusion in the Ulster ranks to break up field for Lamb, on for Flood, to slot over a penalty of their own.
Ulster still looked comfortable but a lack of concentration in the dying minutes of the first half pushed the game in favour of the Tigers! A sprightly Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble had worked the ball into the Leicester 22 only for the ball to be turned over. Leicester counter attacked and with Ulster faffing at what looked like a couple of forward passes Niall Morris sprinted clear to score. Lamb added the extras and moments later scrum half Mele went over for a soft try wide on the left, which really should have been stopped, giving Leicester an 18 – 3 advantage at the break.
Ulster brought on Black and Fitzpatrick for the restart and with both sides making changes throughout the second period the game got a bit scrappy. Some nice play by Leicester saw Anthony Allen sprinting clear for a converted try and a 25 – 3 lead.
The visitors upped their effort and enjoyed their best period of the game but they struggled with the final pass and worryingly looked to be outplayed at the breakdown. A period of pressure in the Leicester 22 resulted in Schuster being carded and Ulster took advantage with Henry crashing over off the back of a 5 yard scrum. Jackson, on for McKinney, added the extras taking the score to 10 – 25.
Ulster looked to have another chance shortly after only to be called back for a marginal forward pass with the line beckoning.
The rest of the game was pretty scrappy with both sides making changes and Leicester went further ahead with the last play of the game, de Chaves scoring in the left hand corner for an unconverted try to leave the final score 30-10 to the Tigers.
Ulster: Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Chris Farrell, David McIlwaine, James McKinney, Paul Marshall, Tom Court, Rob Herring, Ricky Lutton, Johann Muller, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Callum Black, Niall Annett, Declan Fitzpatrick, Alan O’Connor, Conor Joyce, Lewis Stevenson, Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Ian Porter, Paddy Jackson, Michael Allen, Ricky Andrew.
Leicester: Morris, Hamilton, Goneva, Thompstone, Flood, Mele, Muilpoa, Youngs, Cole, Deacon, Parling, Croft, Salvi, Crane. Replacements: Briggs, Stankovich, Schuster, Wells, Price, Noone, Waldrom, Steele, Lamb, Purdy, Bowen plus others!
All in all it was a useful enough run out, though there were some areas of concern.
Ulster largely struggled in the scrum and looked to be off the pace in the back row though they are a few games behind Leicester at this stage of the season.
Leicester are a good side and they played pretty much at full strength but I don’t see too much to be worried about come Heineken Cup time. It’ll be a tough game but Ulster have much more to add to this outing than Leicester do.
On the unfortunate Flood incident it looked like a genuine collision with Flood going in too high as he attempted to make the tackle on Tuohy as the Ulster man barged his way through a collection of Leicester players. Hopefully a speedy recovery for the talented Flood and no further action required.
I expect to see something similar to the starting line up for the match against the Dragons with Jackson stepping into the out half birth and possibly Porter getting a run at scrum half.