Ulster (10) 19
TRY: Sean Reidy. CON: Paddy Jackson. PEN: Paddy Jackson (3). DG: Paddy Jackson
Exeter (6) 18
PEN: Gareth Steenson (5). DG: Gareth Steenson.

Ulster’s European campaign continued to stutter with a one point win against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday evening. 

I watched this one from the comfort of home and I wish I could gloss over the match as easily as the commentators on BT Sport who made it sound like quite the spectacle whereas, in reality, it was more akin to a bottom of the table clash between two teams trying to discover some form. It was incredibly boring, apart from the last couple of minutes. 

The home side basked in 65% possession throughout the game, but,in the opening exchanges it was almost 100% though Ulster only had a measly penalty from Paddy Jackson to show for their efforts.  True to form Gareth Steenson leveled the game within minutes and by the half hour mark the visitors were in the lead when Steenson knocked over his second penalty.

A moment of brilliance from Charles Piutau looked to have brought the game to life, as Sean Reidy finished off Piutau’s 30 yard break, and with Jackson adding the conversion Ulster took a 10 – 6 lead into the break. 

Any thoughts of the game sparking to life in the second half was quickly dismissed as both teams continued to serve up the same defensive stodge as they did in the first. 

Jackson and Steenson swapped five penalties, Exeter getting the odd one to make it a one point game, in Ulster’s favour, as the game descending into a series of attritional plays, rather reminiscent of an American Football game. The Chiefs set their heart on a “field goal” to take the game, Steenson knocking over a drop kick to put the Chiefs two points in front with three minutes left but they made a rooky mistake as they should have run the clock down further! 

Sure enough Ulster regained possession and set up their own “series of four” which culminated in Jackson responding in kind to put Ulster back into that one point lead with two minutes left. 

There was still time for Steenson to have another poke but this one was wide and with it went the game, Ulster winning by 19 – 18. 

Ulster: Jared Payne, Andrew Trimble, Luke Marshall, Stuart Olding, Charles Piutau, Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar, Kyle McCall, Rory Best, Rodney Ah You, Pete Browne, Franco vd Merwe, Iain Henderson, Clive Ross, Roger Wilson. Replacements; Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ross Kane, Alan O’Connor, Clive Ross, Paul Marshall, Craig Gilroy, Tommy Bowe. 

A win is a start but Ulster will need to show considerable improvement if they are to continue to compete in Europe after the pool games. 

Pictures below from Ian Humes.