Ulster (24) 29
 Louis Ludik, Charles Piatau, Rob Herring, Jacob Stockdale. PEN: Robert Lyttle. CON: Robert Lyttle (3).
Northampton (0) 19
Alex Waller, Tom Collins, Juan Pablo Estelles. CON: Stephen Myler, JJ Hanrahan.

Ulster’s pre-season finally got on track with an impressive 29 – 19 win against Northampton at Ravenhill on Friday evening. 

Given the personnel available for this one I’d put it down as a win for the visitors but sparkling first half performances from new signing Charles Piatau and Academy player Robert Lyttle pushed the game firmly in Ulster’s direction with the home side taking a 24 – 0 lead into the break. 

Indeed, the two combined well for Ulster’s opening score on the 21st minute. By that time Ulster were a man down, thanks to new signing Rodney Ah You being harshly penalised for a trip tackle, but it didn’t dampen Ulster’s attacking intent. A cross field kick by Brett Herron was gathered by the majestic Paitou who set Lyttle off down the wing, the youngster passing inside to the onrushing Louis Ludik who crossed for Ulster’s opening score. 

Minutes later Northampton’s Picamoles was sent to the bench and Ulster took full advantage with Lyttle slotting over the penalty to extend Ulster’s lead to 10 points before a break by Paul Marshall was taken on by Robbie Diack and two passes later Piatou was crossing out wide much to the delight of the home support. 

With Ulster leading 17 – 0, and the Northampton pack looking distinctly disinterested, the Ulster forwards decided to get in on the act, a standard catch and drive finished off by Rob Herring. Lyttle made it four from four from the tee to give Ulster a 24 – 0 lead at the break. 

Northampton must have been given a bit of a roasting in the changing room as they came out fired up for the second half with Alex Waller crossing within minutes of the restart. 

Ulster regrouped and ten minutes later Piatou dug deep into his box of tricks to produce a moment of genius, and claim instant cult status in the process. Fielding the ball in midfield at full pelt the Kiwi set off for the corner with the Northampton defence converging from three sides. Eventually chased down he produced an outrageous back of the hand offload to the onrushing Jacob Stockdale that had commentators Tommy Bowe and Dan Tuohy yelling, “filthy, filthy skills” as the Ireland U20’s youngster strolled over unopposed. What a moment and welcome to Ravenhill Mr Piatau. 

After that moment of magic the rest of the game was inconsequential. Northampton did cross twice, through Tom Collins and Juan Pablo Estelles to reduce their arrears but it didn’t take any of the pleasure out of this Ulster performance with the crowd still buzzing about “that pass” at the final whistle! 

Final score: Ulster 29 Northampton 19

Ulster: Charles Piutau, Louis Ludik, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Robert Lyttle, Brett Herron, Paul Marshall, Andrew Warwick, Rob Herring, Rodney Ah You, Pete Browne, Franco vd Merwe, Robbie Diack, Clive Ross. Roger Wilson. Replacements: John Andrew, Callum Black, Ross Kane, Alan O’Connor, Connor Joyce, Matthew Rea, Dave Shanahan, Sam Windsor, Jacob Stockdale, David Busby, Johnny McPhillips

Pictures by Ian Humes.

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