The new season officially kicked off at Kingspan Stadium last night as Ulster succumbed to a 26-15 loss to Wasps in their opening pre-season friendly despite several positive individual performances.
Opposite, the experienced Brendan Macken and Gaby Lovobalavu, Ulster centre Callum Patterson looked assured in the midfield throughout the night and capped the game off with a fine try just after the interval.
Wasps opened the scoring inside ten minutes with a try from scrum half Craig Hampson. Flamboyant out half, Danny Cipriani played a fine role in the build up by taking the ball to the line at speed, fixing the Ulster defence and popping behind the dummy runner to Lovobalavu. Hampson was on hand as the supporting runner and benefited by receiving the ball from Guy Thompson for an easy run in.
Brett Herron kicked a penalty with a quarter of the game gone before Pete Browne crashed over after a quick tap penalty caught the Wasps’ defence off guard. Ulster lead for the first time in the game with 12 minutes left in the half.
The away side regained the lead with a try just before the interval after significant pressure. A rumbling Wasps’ maul crashes over and prop Simon McIntyre emerged with the ball for the try. Danny Cipriani added the extras as Wasps held a 14-8 lead at the break.
Straight from the restart Callum Patterson and Nick Timoney combined for an excellent try. Timoney’s great line and hand off on Danny Cipriani put Ulster on the front foot while Patterson followed up on the outside shoulder to receive the ball for an easy finish. Pete Nelson converted to nudge Ulster in front 15-14.
As the replacements were brought on, the game deteriorated in quality with both sides making numerous unforced errors. Wasps’ class began to shine through and began to put serious pressure on the Ulster line.
Josh Bassett dotted down after Wasps capitalised on a period of broken play. Flanker, Jack Willis made a break and fixed Louis Ludik before passing to Bassett who managed to get over despite the best efforts of Matty Rea.
Cipriani managed to get over for the final try of the game. Wasps’ overloaded the blindside from a scrum seven metres from the Ulster line and the vast overlap allowed Cipriani an easy run in. The try was converted to take the score to 26-15.
Ulster had a period of promising play in the last ten minutes but unforced errors prevented any sort of momentum.
As mentioned, Callum Patterson and Nick Timoney were the stand out performers but Louis Ludik, Matty Rea and Pete Nelson also impressed in what was a disjointed game.