Ulster huffed and puffed to a three-try victory over Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth this afternoon.
John Cooney gave Ulster a 9-point lead at the interval before Marcell Coetzee, Angus Kernohan and Angus Curtis crossed to seal the win.
After a positive start and Cooney landed his first penalty on five minutes. Indiscipline at the breakdown allowed Ulster easy territory in the first ten minutes and Cooney scored his second penalty three minutes later.
Despite having all of the possession and territory, Ulster lacked the clinical nature needed to cross the whitewash. Both Stuart McCloskey and Darren Cave knocked the ball on in promising positions while the lineout misfired twice in the Kings’ 22m.
The home side racked up nine penalties in the opening 20 minutes before flanker Tienie Burger was sent to the bin. The Kings’ indiscipline made it hard for Ulster to create any momentum in the first half.
Cooney crossed the line after 21 minutes but the try was chalked off due to an illegal clearout from Alan O’Connor. In recent days, protecting the jackaler at the breakdown has received a lot of traction on social media in terms of arms in the contact, and rightly so, however O’Connor wasn’t given much choice by Kings’ Stephan de Wit who lay over the ball slowing it down.
John Cooney notched his third penalty after 27 minutes before a glorious chance was presented for the first try. Darren Cave ran a terrific dummy run allowing Henry Speight to make a linebreak. Unsurprisingly, Cooney ran the supporting line but the big Australian couldn’t find last week’s match winner with the offload.
Rob Herring received a yellow card at the end of the first half for a professional foul. The Kings capitalised three minutes into the half when Michael Willemse capitalised on a dominant rolling maul.
The Southern Kings had their best spell in during the sin binning of Herring but failed to add to their try. Ulster failed to protect the breakdown and the aggression from the home side allowed them to make several turnovers.
The Kings gave away their 15th, 16th and 17th penalties on their own line, two of which were at scrum time. On the third attempt the Ulster scrum rumbled over allowing Marcell Coetzee to dot down for his first Ulster try.
Academy player Angus Kernohan scored his first try five minutes later after terrific work from the pack in the maul. The maul was moved in field creating a large blindside allowing Dave Shanahan and Kernohan to convert a two on one.
Angus Curtis grabbed a try with the last play of game after constant pressure – and penalties – on the Kings’ line for the last five minutes of the match.
Ulster now face a five day turnaround and 650km trip to Bloemfontein to take on the Toyota Cheetahs. Yes the Cheetahs aren’t the side they were last season, but they have the advantage of playing at 1,400m above sea level. It will take a great performance to travel back to Belfast with eight points on Friday.
Marcell Coetzee was deservedly named man of the match. He was Ulster's main ball carrier with 22 carries and three defenders beaten. His pivotal turnover ensured that Ulster's nine point lead was unharmed at the end of the first half.
Centres McCloskey and Cave were impressive with the latter making several crucial tackles.
Henry Speight put in his best performance in an Ulster shirt. He carried the ball 140 metres off 16 runs, making two linebreaks and beating 6 defenders.
- Andy Warwick
- Rob Herring
- Tom O'Toole
- Alan O'Connor
- Kieran Treadwell
- Marcell Coetzee
- Sean Reidy
- Nick Timoney
- John Cooney
- Billy Burns
- Henry Speight
- Stuart McCloskey
- Darren Cave
- Craig Gilroy
- Peter Nelson
- Adam McBurney
- Eric O'Sullivan
- Wiehahn Herbst
- Jean Deysel
- Matthew Rea
- Dave Shanahan
- Angus Curtis
- Angus Kernohan