Ulster’s White Knights, resplendent in their dashing pink socks, secured a comfortable 39 – 21 victory against Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill last night.
Dashing Dan Tuohy lead the way with a brace of tries, Jarred Payne, Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble crossed for one apiece, Paddy Jackson slotted over three penalties and Ruan Pienaar chipped in with a penalty and conversion after a rather profligate night from the boot from young Jacko.
However, as I stood on our usual spot in the new Promenade I must say I was somewhere “re-impressed” by the slick, silky smooth passing from Pienaar an Jackson who are rapidly becoming the best half back partnership in the league.
With both teams buoyant after successful European Cup matches there was a celebratory feel on the pitch and in the stands with both sides trying to ply rugby. Unfortunately the over-officious referee felt a little left out and called a few to many infringements breaking up the game which appeared a bit stop start at times.
Jackson got the scoring under-way in the 8th minute with an early penalty forced by Ulster’s dominant scrum but the lead didn’t last long with Leigh Halfpenny equalising shortly after to take the score to 3 – 3.
Ulster got back on track and woke when Stuart Olding and Luke Marshal combined to send the touch hugging pretty boys Robbie Diack and Dan Tuohy clear on the left. Tuohy strolled over for the opening try but Jackson missed the conversion leaving the score at 8 – 3.
The home side lost influential players Johann Muller and Rory Best shortly after, both taken off as a precaution after knocks, but the arrival of Lewis Stevenson and Rob Herring was firly seamless and Ulster remained on top.
Another scrum and another penalty to Ulster saw Pienaar take a quick tap to send Payne scampering over in the same corner. Again the conversion was missed but Ulster lead 13 – 3 and it looked as though the flood gates were about to open.
Jackson found his range shortly after with another penalty from a scrum but Cardiff started to work their way back into the match after the impressive Robin Copeland caught Andrew Trimble, waving and yammering instead of tackling, allowing the Blues No 8 to stroll over the line unopposed to take the score to 16 – 8. The visitors ended the half on a high with another successful penalty from Halfpenny taking the score to 16 – 11 at the break. Scant reward for Ulster’s dominance.
Ulster came out determined to put the game to bed early on and Olding and Marshall again combined for Marshall to bounce over the line for Ulster’s third try. Again the conversion was missed but Ulster looked like they were going to pull away with the score now at 21 – 11.
It looked like the game would be over pretty sharpish when Copeland was binned for the visitors after a bit of tomfoolery at the bottom of a ruck with Jackson slotting over the penalty as the Cardiff player trudged off to take the score to 24 – 11.
However it was the visitors that made the best of the sin bin with the 14 men crafting an opening on the left for winger Smith to cross after running over the top of Olding. Halfpenny added the conversion and we were back to a six point game with the score at 24 -18.
Pienaar and Halfpenny swapped penalties (27 – 21) before Ulster finally wised up and cut loose. The uncharacteristically quiet Tommy Bowe joined the line to create space on the right for Trimble to slide home for the all important bonus point try on the 67th minute putting Ulster clear at 32 -21.
There was still time for glory hunter Tuohy to grab a second try with the last play of the game after a sliced Cardiff clearance was moved across the pitch for the wing hugging second row to slide over, narrowly avoiding a young spectator! Pienarr clipped over th etoughest kick of the night to give Ulster a deserved 39 -21 win.
Ulster: Stuart Olding, Andrew Trimble, Jared Payne, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Callum Black, Rory Best, John Afoa, Johan Muller, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson. Replacements: Rob Herring, Tom Court, Ricky Lutton, Lewis Stevenson, Mike McComish, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Michael Allen.
Cardiff: Leigh Halfpenny, Richard Smith, Cory Allen, Dafydd Hewitt, Harry Robinson, Rhys Patchell, Lloyd Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Marc Breeze, Scott Andrews, Bradley Davies, Filo Paulo, Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton, Robin Copeland. Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Sam Hobbs, Taufa’ao Filise, Lou Reed, Rory Watts-Jones, Lewis Jones, Gareth Davies, Chris Czekaj.
In the lead up to this game we we’re shocked and saddened to hear of the untimely passing of our old friend and lifelong Cardiff supporter Dave Allen, or Cardiff Dave as he was affectionately known by the many Ulster supporters who came into contact with him at these fixtures both home and away.
A typical rugby man, who lived life to the full, we spent quite a bit of the match reminiscing on some of the madcap encounters we had with Dave (pictured above left) over the last six years. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. Dave, you will be missed.