Ulster (24) 24
TRY: Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Louis Ludik, Jacob Stockdale. CON: Peter Nelson (2).
Edinburgh (10) 18
TRY: Magnus Bradbury, Stuart McInally, Damien Hoyland. PEN: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
Ulster’s first half performance papered over the cracks of their dismal season with the team picking up an early bonus point. Unfortunately, the frailties that have plagued the theam this season were all to obvious by the end of the second half. The cracks all to plain to see after the blinding lights of Marcell Coetzee and Charles Piutau departed.
It didn’t start too well for Ulster as they conceded the softest of scores in the opening minutes. Magnus Bradbury’s try went unconverted and to their credit Ulster responded impressively.
Coetzee caught the eye with his ball carrying but I was particularly impressed by his all enveloping clear outs as he appeared to swoop down on the breakdown sweeping away everyone in his path. The net effect was fast ball for Ulster and with the quality of backs on display that was always going to mean tries.
Piutau tormented the Edinburgh defence but the decisive break was made by another returnee, Stuart Olding. The young centre spotting space at the breakdown to offload to Paul Marshall who crossed unopposed. Peter Nelson added the extras and Ulster led 5 – 7.
Three further tries followed in a fourteen minute burst as Ulster gave the supporters a glimpse of what could have been this season.
A break by Stockdale, coupled with an impressive leg drive, left Ulster a couple of yards out. The ball was moved wide and Cave went over in the corner. Next up, Piutau turned the defence inside out to feed Ludik who sprinted clear to score in the same spot. It didn’t do Nelson any favours, the left footer pushing both conversions wide.
However the out half was back on target when he converted Stockdale’s try in the opposite corner, the winger bursting down the line after good work by Diack. By the 33rd minute Ulster had the bonus point wrapped up and led 24 – 5. with all expectations being that they would push on for a sizeable win.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Edinburgh hit back with their second try before the break, another soft one from the Ulster defence, a simple carry from the base of the ruck by replacement hooker Stuart McInally. Tovey was off form from the tee and the teams turned round with Ulster leading 24 – 10.
It all fell apart in the second half and I’ve difficulty remembering another chance for the home side. Piutau departed with a leg injury and Edinburgh scored through Damien Hoyland, conversion again missed. By the 60th minute Coetzee was off and Edinburgh looked to be gaining more traction with replacement scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne calling the shots.
Hidalgo-Clyne landed a penalty on the 65th minute to take the score to 24 – 18 and with Michael Allen brought on to join, fellow ex Ulster player, Rory Scholes it looked increasingly likely that my prediction that one of them would score the winner was going to come true! 😯
Fortunately, it didn’t happen and Ulster held on for that all important bonus point win!
Ulster: Louis Ludik, Jacob Stockdale, Darren Cave, Stuart Olding, Charles Piutau, Peter Nelson, Paul Marshall, Andrew Warwick, John Andrew, Ricky Lutton, Kieran Treadwell, Alan O’Connor, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Marcell Coetzee. Replacements: Johnny Murphy, Callum Black, Wiehahn Herbst, Pete Browne, Sean Reidy, David Shanahan, Stuart McCloskey, Tommy Bowe.