Billy Burns’ conversion in the final play of the game secured a draw and prevented an opposition victory for the third time in four weeks.
Henry Speight provided a crucial try while Dave Shanahan grabbed a brace as well as a Jonny Stewart try and penalty try.
Ulster made a poor start however as Gerhardus Olivier capitalized when the Cheetahs ghosted through porous defence inside two minutes. Ulster responded when Darren Cave picked a great line off Billy Burns and fixed the Cheetahs’ full back allowing Dave Shanahan an easy try.
Ulster’s defence continued to leak tackles and after a few penalties and pressure on the Ulster line, Cheetahs knocked over a penalty. Once again Ulster responded with Cave and Shanahan linking up for Ulster’s and Shanahan’s second try of the night.
Neither side looked great in the opening half but Ulster coughed up a glorious opportunity with 10 minutes left in the half. The away side had pressure on the Cheetahs’ line instead of opting for points the lineout was taken and eventually knocked on.
The Cheetahs led at half time when Rabz Maxwane spotted a dogleg in Ulster’s kick chase. The South African had enough pace to hold off Shanahan and then find fellow winger, William Small-Smith who scored his side’s second try.
Billy Burns levelled the scores with a penalty five minutes after the interval. The Cheetahs received an advantage when Alan O’Connor was sent to the sin bin for a second lineout offence and the home side duly capitalized with Joseph Dweba rumbling a maul over the line.
Jean Deysel made an immediate impact with an excellent turnover allowing Billy Burns to nudge Ulster to within two points thanks to the resulting penalty.
The Cheetahs secured their bonus point with 17 minutes remaining through Jacques du Toit and Tian Schoeman converted to put nine points between the sides. A poor decision to take a quick lineout allowed Ulster to score their third try. Angus Kernohan made the break before offloading to Stuart McCloskey. The Bangor centre managed to wriggle his right arm free and find Jonny Stewart who scored his first try for the senior team.
With the wind in their sails, Billy Burns nailed an excellent kick giving Ulster a lineout seven metres from the Cheetahs’ line. A maul was superbly set and a rumbling maul was cynically taken down by Charles Marais. A penalty try was awarded and the Cheetahs’ player was sent to the sin bin.
Cheetahs regained the lead after another excellent counter attack from a poor kick with Rabz Maxwane finishing the move before Louis Fouche landed a 60m penalty meaning Ulster needed a converted try to draw. In the last play of the game, a swiveling Henry Speight crossed the line and Billy Burns converted allowing Ulster to leave Bloemfontein with their undefeated record in tact.
Probably not a vintage Ulster performance, but they did enough to come away from Bloemfontein with a draw, which I feel is a good result considering Ulster's injury record and five-day turnaround.
Darren Cave was exceptional in setting up both Dave Shanahan's tries while the Ulster's scrum half was great at controlling the game and pulled off a great tackle.
Cave's centre partner Stuart McCloskey didn't have his best game in defence but was very good going forward.
In the forwards, Tom O'Toole provided a great ball carrying outlet and the introduction of Jean Deysel in the second half proved crucial in Ulster's fightback.
- Eric O'Sullivan
- Rob Herring
- Wiehahn Herbst
- Alan O'Connor
- Kieran Treadwell
- Matthew Rea
- Sean Reidy
- Marcell Coetzee
- Dave Shanahan
- Billy Burns
- Angus Kernohan
- Stuart McCloskey
- Darren Cave
- Henry Speight
- Pete Nelson
- John Andrew
- Andy Warwick
- Tom O'Toole
- Jean Deysel
- Nick Timoney
- Jonny Stewart
- Angus Curtis
- Johnny McPhillips