Ulster remain in contention for a Guinness PRO14 playoff spot with a bonus point victory over Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield.

Darren Cave, Charles Piutau, John Cooney and Iain Henderson scored tries coupled with two penalties from the boot of Cooney as Ulster win only their fourth away game of the season 32-20.

Ulster made a solid start to the match by retaining the ball for multiple phases but failed to break the Edinburgh defence and eventually conceded ten metres. In contrast the home side benefitted off quick ball in their first few phases and looked to trouble the Ulster defence. As the game progressed, Ulster grew more and more confident, particularly with the exploits of Jean Deysel, Iain Henderson and Rory Best on the deck. Likewise, Darren Cave lead from the front with a masterfully executed drift defence which only conceded six clean breaks all night.

Credit where it’s due however, Ulster were the first try scorers with a score off first phase play. I cant recall the last time where Ulster pulled off a successful strike move. Instead of hitting the ball up, Stuart McCloskey pulled the ball back to Charles Piutau who offloaded to Jacob Stockdale. A two on one allowed Darren Cave to run under the posts.

The second try followed after another Duncan Weir penalty. In this move Rory Best showed great vision to release the ball to Darren Cave when there was a overlap in the backs. Charles Piutau finished the move in the corner.

Another try followed off first phase play. They’re like Translink buses; as soon as one appears, another quickly follows. Darren Cave ran a great dummy line allowing a clean break for Jacob Stockdale and similar to the previous encounter between the sides, John Cooney’s supporting line allowed him to score his fourth try of the season. Duncan Weir pulled a try back when he intercepted a Cooney pass with ten minutes left in the first half.

Ulster’s good play continued in the second half. The forwards were getting up in the faces of the opposition and making vital hits on Edinburgh behind the gain line. A particularly pleasing example was when Henderson won the turnover after a great chase and tackle from Nick Timoney in the middle of the pitch. The second row continued to make his presence felt as he was a constant thorn in the Edinburgh side with his counter rucking.

As the game progressed, the home side found a chink in Ulster’s armour. Edinburgh dominated at scrum time and were awarded a penalty try as the game reached the hour mark which brought the Scottish side to within two points. A Cooney penalty extended Ulster’s lead out to five points but Edinburgh were lucky not to find themselves with a man in the bin after McCloskey made break deep into their 22m line and was cynically stripped of the ball on the ground.

With five minutes left, Ulster continued to play the game in the Edinburgh half, but were too keen to score the bonus point which often resulted in ball being turned over. Despite this the bonus point was secured through Iain Henderson. Credit must go to McCloskey who made the break down the wing. After a scrum, the forwards took charge – which has rarely happened all season – and Henderson bulldozed his way over the line.

Not only do Ulster gain the maximum five match points, but they deny Edinburgh a losing bonus point. The gap is now reduced to eight points with three games remaining for Ulster and two games remaining for Edinburgh. Ulster welcome Ospreys to Kingspan Stadium next week.

Ulster Player Ratings

6.9 Performance

If it wasn't Ulster's best performance of the season, it was close to it.
The return of Rory Best and Iain Henderson revitalised an Ulster pack. Both put in international quality displays with Henderson making two turnovers and scoring the bonus point try.
On his debut, Tom O'Toole performed admirably in defence as he made 11 tackles without fail.
The backrow were industrious and provided Ulster quick ball at rucks while disrupting Edinburgh ball. Jean Deysel had his best game in an Ulster jersey
Johnny McPhillips' game management was superb tonight and this was highlighted by two superb kicks in the first half.
We saw a different side of Stuart McCloskey tonight. He was a threat and had a number of neat touches and line breaks but his centre partner and fan favourite, Darren Cave showed why he is deserving of another contract at Ulster Rugby with an excellent defensive and offensive display.

  • Andy Warwick 6
  • Rory Best 7
  • Tom O'Toole 7
  • Matthew Dalton 7
  • Iain Henderson 8
  • Matthew Rea 7
  • Nick Timoney 8
  • Jean Deysel 8
  • John Cooney 7
  • Johnny McPhillips 8
  • Jacob Stockdale 8
  • Stuart McCloskey 7
  • Darren Cave 9
  • Louis Ludik 7
  • Charles Piutau 6
  • Rob Herring 5
  • Tommy O'Hagan N/A
  • Rodney Ah You 6
  • Alan O'Connor 5
  • Sean Reidy N/A
  • Dave Shanahan N/A
  • Angus Curtis N/A
  • Tommy Bowe 5

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