EDINBURGH stopped the rot by claiming their first home victory since November and, at the same time, did neighbours Glasgow a huge favour by ensuring that Ulster were restricted to a single losing bonus point.
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: McInally, Pens: Francis (3); Ulster: Tries: Trimble, Pens: Jackson
Edinburgh’s victory, after a run of seven defeats in a row that led to the departure of coach Michael Bradley, was a flying start for interim coaches Stevie Scott and Duncan Hodge. It was aided in large measure by Ireland’s stand-off Paddy Jackson’s lapse in missing three consecutive and relatively simple penalty attempts that might have put a completely different complexion on the game, albeit he was kicking in horrendously blustery conditions.
Ultimately, though, it was hard earned and well deserved because Edinburgh took their chances and refused to buckle when Ulster threw everything at them.
If it was good for Edinburgh, it was better for Glasgow, who now have the opportunity to rise to the top of the RaboDirect Pro table in their own right if they can beat Leinster tonight.
Edinburgh started with international openside Ross Rennie back from injury and Grant Gilchrist on the pitch after winning his first cap for Scotland in Paris. Ulster, trying to climb out of their own slump of two losses and a draw in their last four games, made seven changes and were without injured South African Ruan Pienaar.
Ulster had the early momentum, pushing the home side back into their 22 and trying some intricate running and passing that cold hands couldn’t cope with.
It was Edinburgh who posed the first real threat when winger Lee Jones followed up on his long kick ahead and charged down Jackson’s attempted clearance from behind his own line. However, the bounce of the loose ball favoured the visitors and they were able to scramble it away, but not very far and stand-off Piers Francis opened the scoring with a penalty right in front of the posts.
Ulster were monopolising possession but, more often than not, wasting it through handling and kicking errors. They did get it right with a final off-load that required flanker Stuart McInally to get across and bundle outside centre Darren Cave into touch to snuff out the danger.
Edinburgh were looking dangerous too and only an interception prevented the creation of an overlap on the left wing. Half an hour into the match, Francis kicked a second simple penalty when Ulster were caught offside metres from their own line.
The forward battle was pretty even at the set-pieces and the referee was minded to let the play flow in the loose, but just before half-time Edinburgh prop Allan Jacobsen was penalised for holding on as he went into a tackle and Jackson knocked over the penalty for three points to narrow the home lead.
Minutes after the break he should have levelled the scores but hooked the kick horribly. A few minutes on, he was handed another more difficult chance and he did exactly the same again. Ulster kept Edinburgh confined to their own half and when a third chance came along it seemed inevitable Jackson would score but he hooked it yet again.
McInally, nominated man of the match, provided some go-forward for Edinburgh, breaking a tackle and the gain line to make ground into the Ulster 22. From the scrum, Netani Talei blasted a big hole in the Ulster defence, laid the ball back beautifully and Sean Cox made the short pass that allowed McInally to finish off what he started. Francis missed the conversion.
Ulster replied with a succession of pick-and-go attacks that were soaked up by Edinburgh as the game went into its final quarter. Again and again the Irish looked as if they were about to break through. The pressure told when full back Jared Payne took an off-load at speed to break the gain line and his clever grubber kick sat up for Andrew Trimble to go over in the corner. Jackson’s conversion was well short but Ulster were back within three points.
Edinburgh came roaring back. Replacement prop Geoff Cross rampaged towards the posts, bowling over defenders, and set up quick ball. Francis looked to be about to touch down when the ball was knocked out of his hands. When Ulster went offside soon afterwards, his penalty stretched the lead to six with four minutes remaining. That was enough.
Edinburgh: G Tonks; L Jones, D Fife, B Atiga, T Brown; P Francis, S Kennedy; A Jacobsen, S Lawrie, W Nel, G Gilchrist, S Cox, S McInally, R Rennie, N Talei. Subs: R Ford (for Lawrie 56), J Yapp (for Jacobsen 65), G Cross (for Nel 62), P Parker, H Watson (for Talei 77), R Rees, H Leonard, T Visser (for Brown 66).
Ulster: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, M Allen; P Jackson, P Marshall; T Court, R Herring, J Afoa, J Muller, L Stevenson, D Tuohy, M McComish, R Diack. Subs: N Annett, C Black, R Lutton, N Williams (for Muller 40), A Birch, M Heaney (for Marshall 59), R Andrew, P Nelson (for Olding 54).