There was no second win of the season for Edinburgh over Ulster as early tries put Les Kiss’ side on the road to victory.
Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons, who yesterday signed a new one-year deal, was dismayed to see his side concede two tries, but Cornell Du Preez’s 49th-minute score meant an exciting second-half.
But, try as they might, Edinburgh were unable to build on that score and had to be satisfied with a losing bonus point from their trip to Belfast, a defeat that sees Ulster pull clear of their visitors in the Pro12 standings.
A series of injury setbacks either side of the kick-off didn’t disrupt the home side, who swarmed all over their visitors from the outset. Every error was punished with a 50-metre turnaround and every defensive slip seemed to result in a score.
Ruan Pienaar pinned Edinburgh back on top of their own try-line with a splendid kick which dribbled into the corner in the fourth minute and, when Nick Williams blocked Sean Kennedy’s attempted box kick clearance, Solomons’ side were fortunate to clear their lines.
It was in that scramble that Iain Henderson picked up his hamstring injury but, from the resultant lineout, Kiss’ side took the lead when Chris
Henry peeled off the rolling maul. Henry was stalled just short, but Pienaar looked certain to dive over the line, only for the offside Mike Coman to hold him up, which resulted in the award of a penalty try.
Paddy Jackson’s conversion made it 7-0 to Ulster, and at that point Edinburgh had hardly put two phases together. But Solomons would have been happy to see Nick Williams concede a penalty at the breakdown in the eighth minute which could have opened their account. However, Jack Cuthbert’s kick from the ten metre line fell well short, such was the strength of the wind that Edinburgh played into before the break.
And, three minutes later, Ulster struck decisively with the game’s second try. The score was finished off by winger Rory Scholes, but it was a scything move through the backs off a first-phase scrum move that sprung the Edinburgh defence. An inside pass from Paddy Jackson to Louis Ludik rocked Edinburgh on their heels, but Scholes’ side step, which left Dougie Fife grasping at thin air, was the killer blow.
Jackson nailed the conversion which made it 14-0 to the home sideTen minutes later only a knock-on from Williams as he attempted a one-handed offload denied Ulster another try.
It wasn’t until the 20-minute mark that Edinburgh managed to find their trademark physicality in contact and ball retention, but a forward pass from Phil Burleigh brought a promising move to a halt inside the Ulster ten metre line.
Last week’s 32-13 win over the Dragons was a great lift for Edinburgh, who had suffered three Pro12 defeats in a row after their win over Ulster back in the middle of October.
There was a few moments of decent Edinburgh possession, but Ulster’s ferocity at the breakdown coupled with Edinburgh’s poor handling and ball protection, meant the Scottish side did well to only trail 14-0.
Having suffered a blow to the head in the first-half and passed the head injury assessment, Coman was replaced by Hamish Watson at the interval for Edinburgh.
A penalty earned at the scrum allowed Burleigh to put Ulster on the back foot and, after a smart move at the front of the lineout almost sent replacement hooker Neil Cochrane over, John Andress nearly scored from an inside pass from Kennedy.
But Burleigh spotted Du Preez in space on the right and he easily scored after his chip through.
Cuthbert’s conversion from the right was drilled between the posts to make it 14-7 but the Edinburgh line lived a charmed life as Stuart McCloskey and Clive Ross were each held up over the line in the next seven minutes.
Ulster continued to pepper the Edinburgh line to no avail in the final quarter, but the losing bonus point could be a valuable return in the months to come.
Referee: I Davies (Wal)
ULSTER: Tries: Penalty try, Scholes. Cons: Jackson 2.
EDINBURGH: Try: Du Preez. Con: Cuthbert.
ULSTER: P Nelson, A Trimble, D Cave, L Marshall, R Scholes, P Jackson, R Pienaar, K McCall, R Herring (capt), R Lutton, D Tuohy, F van der Merwe, I Henderson, C Henry, N Williams.
Subs: C Ross (for Henderson 5), L Ludik (for Cave 6), S McCloskey (for Nelson 29), P Marshall (for Scholes 35-40), W Herbst (for Lutton 43), A O’Connor (for van der Merwe 59), J Andrew (for Tuohy 61), A Warwick (for McCall 63).
EDINBURGH: J Cuthbert, D Fife, C Dean, M Scott, W Helu, P Burleigh, S Kennedy; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel, A Bresler, A Toolis, M Coman (capt), J Hardie, C Du Preez.
Subs: H Watson (for Coman 24-29 & HT), N Cochrane (for Ford 48), R Sutherland (for Dickinson 48), J Andress (for Nel 48), B Kinghorn (for Cuthbert 55), N Fowles (for Kennedy 56), M Allen (for Dean 67).