IT WASN’T until the final quarter that Edinburgh fully succumbed to the incessant pressure of Ulster and left Kingspan Stadium empty handed last night. Tries from Andrew Trimble, Nick Williams and Rory Best sealed the win for Ulster, who took full advantage of Mike Coman’s sin binning to run in the crucial game-winning tries.
Scorers: Ulster: Tries: A Trimble (2), N Williams, R Best; Pen: P Jackson (2); Con: P Jackson, S Olding.
Trimble made it the perfect night for Ulster in the closing stages when he raced in in the corner, but it was a straightforward win for the home side.
From the first scrum the home side appeared to have the upper-hand and the awarding of a fourth minute penalty to Les Kiss’ outfit after a slipped bind was a sign of things to come.
Edinburgh did win a penalty of their own at scrum time a couple of minutes later, but it was from the third scrum penalty of the half in the 11th minute that Ulster took the lead through Irish international Paddy Jackson. Indeed it could well have been a five-point start for Ulster had Louis Ludik not fumbled Jared Payne’s pass with the try-line at his mercy, but Ulster forced the penalty from the resultant scrum.
The opening quarter was littered with some shocking tactical kicking from both sides, but in amongst the average there was some bright play, especially a sharp break from Tim Visser down the left following a clever offload from Greig Tonks. Following that break Edinburgh were handed the chance to draw level when a dazed looking Jackson took out Tonks in the air, but Jack Cuthbert’s penalty from the left was poor and it never threatened the target.
Ulster were not without their mistakes also and sloppy play from Paul Marshall and Tommy Bowe gave Edinburgh their first bit of possession in the Ulster 22, but they left empty-handed.
Jackson missed a straightforward effort to double Ulster’s lead in the 24th minute following an infringement on the ground from Anton Bresler, but two minutes later they did stretch their advantage with the game’s first try.
There appeared to be little danger as Ulster recycled ball on the Edinburgh ten metre line, but Stuart McCloskey was allowed to break through the centre of the ruck and Trimble was on his shoulder to gather the offload. The Irish international winger evaded the cover tackles of Visser and Tonks to race in for his third try of the season.
Jackson slotted the simple conversion to give Ulster a 10-0 lead, but he had to wait until the final kick of the half to add to that total following John Andress’ slow roll away from tackling Chris Henry.
Edinburgh trailed 13-0 at the interval, but the loss of Grant Gilchrist with a blood injury right before the break was a tough blow for Alan Solomons and his side to cope with – especially against a totally dominant home side.
Kiss made ten changes for Ulster following their defeat to Zebre last week, and handed first starts to prop Ruaidhri Murphy and lock Alan O’Connor and there was a real freshness about their play at times.
Solomons also made changes to his side and called up Phil Burleigh, who made a try-scoring impact in last week’s clash with Scarlets, to the stand-off slot, but he was given little chance to weave his magic this time round.
Edinburgh have only beaten Ulster once in their last six games and that record didn’t look like improving any when Jackson and Ludik linked up in the 47th minute after some patient phase play from Ulster, and only an excellent defensive turnover saved the visitors from falling further behind.
Despite playing on the back foot for long stretches, Edinburgh should have got on the scoreboard after 50 minutes. Burleigh pushed them into Ulster territory with a penalty to the corner, and after a brilliantly constructed maul Roddy Grant was denied the try as he was held up over the line. But perhaps Edinburgh’s night was epitomised by the attacking scrum that followed as Sean Kennedy was penalised for a crooked put-in and Ulster cleared the danger.
Edinburgh’s cause wasn’t aided by the sin binning of skipper Coman on the hour mark following one too many infringements – this time during a rolling Ulster maul – as the home side began to up the pressure on the visitors.
The TMO denied Nick Williams a try in the 61st minute thanks to the interventions of Bresler and Allan Dell, but two minutes later he wasn’t to be stopped and the powerful No 8 barged over in the corner for Ulster’s second try.
Even after the return of Coman, Ulster were dominant and Trimble made sure of the five-point haul in the 79th minute when he ran in after a fine skip pass from Paul Marshall.
Ulster: PL Ludik (D Cave 57); A Trimble, J Payne, S McCIoskey, T Bowe; P Jackson (for S Olding 28-34 blood & 60), P Marshall; R Murphy (for A Warwick ht), R Best (for R Herring 70), W Herbst (for B Ross 63); A O’Connor, F van der Merwe (for L Stevenson 70); R Diack, C Henry, R Wilson (for N Williams 51).
Edinburgh: G Tonks (for N McLennan 40-ht blood & 70); J Cuthbert, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser; P Burleigh (for T Heathcote 70), S Kennedy (for S Hidalgo-Clyne 57); R Sutherland (for Dell ht), R Ford (for J Hilterbrand 57), J Andress (for W Nell 45); A Bresler, G Gilchrist (for O Atkins 40 blood); M Coman, R Grant (for T Leonardi 51), C Du Preez.