Ulster Rugby (14) 24
TRY: Paddy Jackson, Penalty Try, Luke Marshall. CON: Paddy Jackson (3). PEN: Paddy Jackson.
Cardiff Blues (10) 24
TRY: Sam Warburton, Rey Lee-Lo (2). CON: Gareth Anscombe (3). PEN: Gareth Anscombe.

Ulster Rugby’s chances of a Guinness PRO12 play of place suffered an almost fatal blow following Friday night’s 24 all draw against Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill.

I’d predicted a close one but I had expected more from Ulster’s backs. Unfortunately they were well corralled for the bulk of the match by their Cardiff counterparts. However, the game was still there for the taking when they got down to the last ten minutes. Unfortunately, despite earlier tries from Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall, to add to a penalty try, Ulster were unable to find that all important winning score.

Cardiff enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges but only had a 9th minute penalty from Gareth Anscombe to show for their efforts. Two minutes later a delightful grubber from Ruan Pienaar was chased down by Paddy Jackson who showed great footwork to push the ball on before collecting it to run under the posts for a convered try.

The Blues struck back at the start of the second quarter following a poor defensive spell from Ulster. Sam Warburton finishing off the final surge for the line. Anscombe converted and the visitors were back in front at 7 – 10.

Ulster responded five minutes later with their option to kick to the corner rewarded when their driving maul was brought down just as they were about to cross the Cardiff line. Jackson again converted and Ulster went back in front at 14 – 10

The visitors centres, Rey Lee-Lo and Willis Halaholo caused Ulster plenty of problems throughout but there were no further scores before the break.

One would have hoped that Ulster would have worked out a way to nullify the Cardiff midfield at the break but two second half tries from Ley-Lo, either side of a Jackson penalty, told a different story. Anscombe converted both and Cardiff took a 17- 24 lead into the final quarter.

Luke Marshall levelled the game on the 69th minute with a converted try and with the Cardiff team out on their feet it looked as though Ulster would nick this one, with a full bag of points, in the last ten minutes.

Unfortunately, the closer Ulster got to the line the quicker their heads blew, giving Cardiff sufficient opportunities to clear the danger as the game petered out to it’s unsatisfactory ending!

Final score: Ulster Rugby 24 Cardiff Blues 24.

Ulster Rugby: Jared Payne, Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Charles Piutau, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Warwick, Rory Best, Wiehahn Herbst, Kieran Treadwell, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson, Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Rob Herring, Callum Black, Rodney Ah You, Robbie Diack, Nick Timoney, Paul Marshall, Jacob Stockdale, Andrew Trimble.

Photo credit: Bob Given Photography.

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