Andrew Trimble saved Ulster’s skin with a late try to topple Benetton Treviso 23-22 in tonight’s Guinness PRO14 game.

Treviso arrived late to the ground and were only able to warm up for fifteen minutes but it was Ulster who made a poor start to the game, conceding cheap possession and allowing the Italians to build from deep. A penalty gave the visitors the lead and confidence grew when they knocked over another to open a 6-0 lead.

Ulster took the lead with 18 minutes played. The forwards worked a maul inside the 15m line which allowed John Cooney and Tommy Bowe to exploit the blindside. Bowe touched down and Cooney added the extras. Ulster’s scrum half added a penalty four minutes later.

Since the first try, Ulster were the dominant side. The ball was kept tighter with no risks taken, exactly how Ulster should approach a match against Italian opposition. Giorgio Bronzini was sent to the sin bin for a late tackle with no arms and Cooney knocked over the resulting penalty to put six points within the sides. Tommaso Allan added his third penalty with a minute left in the half and Ulster went down 3-0 when they had a man advantage.

Ulster started the second half with a line break but it was the visitors who looked the more likely to score. Ulster struggled to get their hands on the ball and when they did, they kicked loosely which gave possession back to the visitors. Allan added another penalty to take score to 13-12.

Treviso capitalized on all their dominance with a try from Roberto Barbieri. The no.8 picked off a loose pass from Schalk van der Merwe to run in out wide. The conversion was successful to take the score to 19-13.

For the most part, Ulster played into the hands of Treviso. The ball was often kicked away allowing Treviso easy possession. Christian Lealiifano decreased the deficit to three points, but Ulster really needed to get their hands on the ball for a period of time.

With twelve minutes to go, Ulster were hanging by a thread and were doing all the defending inside their own 22m line. Marty Banks took Treviso’s lead to six points once again with another penalty.

Andrew Trimble scored his fifth try of the season after spotting the weak shoulder in the Treviso defence with two minutes remaining. It was Ulster’s first flurry into the Treviso 22m line since the early stages of the second half and the visitors gave way under the pressure. The game wasn’t won as the restart was not gathered and Treviso had the scrum in the centre of the pitch on the Ulster 10m line.

Ulster crept over the line after a knock Treviso knock on to win by a point. As expected, it was a fairly disjointed Ulster performance with Ulster having to defend for large parts of the game. Aaron Hall performed admirably on his debut and topped the tackling stats with 22 from 23 attempts. When Ulster had the ball, Nick Timoney stood out and regularly made the hard yards.

It was a poor performance and I have to question the decision making of some of the senior players and the tactics issued by the management, but there were signs on the pitch that the young players have a part to play in future seasons at Ulster Rugby. Next up for Ulster is a trip to the Dragons on Friday, December 1st.

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