Edinburgh end Mike Blair reign with defeat at Ulster as season comes to underwhelming end

Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn is tackled by Nick Tomney of Ulster during the match in Belfast. Pic: Bryan Keane/INPHO/ShutterstockEdinburgh's Blair Kinghorn is tackled by Nick Tomney of Ulster during the match in Belfast. Pic: Bryan Keane/INPHO/Shutterstock
Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn is tackled by Nick Tomney of Ulster during the match in Belfast. Pic: Bryan Keane/INPHO/Shutterstock
Edinburgh never looked like ending Mike Blair’s term in charge with a win in their final game of the season as a performance which typified their frustrating season came up well short of an Ulster side who needed to win to hold on to second place in the URC table.

Edinburgh had plenty of possession to sign off on a positive note but a first league win away from home never looked like materialising at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast as they went down 28-14.

It started well for Edinburgh, with Duhan van der Merwe almost scoring in the left corner after seven minutes after a flowing crossfield move. And with Mark Bennett superb at centre, Edinburgh pushed on and deservedly hit the front a minute later when Ulster prop Jeff Toomaga-Allen knocked on in midfield and with an advantage playing, the Scots sprayed it wide with Bennett making huge ground with a dummy before feeding back inside for Darcy Graham to race in for a fine try.

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Emiliano Boffelli slotted a fine conversion to stretch the lead to 7-0 before the heavy exchanges forced a couple of changes on either side for head injuries, with Edinburgh losing Cammy Hutchinson and Dave Cherry and Ulster’s Mike Lowry and Rob Herring also forced to go off. Cherry’s withdrawal meant an earlier introduction than expected for Stuart McInally for his final game for Edinburgh before his retirement after the World Cup. Both sides, remarkably, were forced to make further changes at the break due to HIA with Ulster losing winger Rob Baloucoune and Edinburgh tighthead Luan de Bruin also having to go off.

Ulster hit back 13 minutes from the break with an excellent try, working the ball quickly through the hands across the field with replacement centre Craig Gilroy, who announced midweek that he is leaving Ulster at the end of the season, making ground and when Baloucoune was nabbed by van der Merwe in the right corner, he managed to feed the ball back inside for Jacob Stockdale to score. John Cooney was unable to add the difficult conversion but he landed two excellent penalties from 40 metres on the right just before the break to take an 11-7 lead into the interval.

Edinburgh came out firing after the restart but disaster struck when Kinghorn’s slow pass was easily read by Cooney who ran from outside halfway to score in the left corner, before then adding the conversion to push the lead out to 18-7 after 43 minutes. Edinburgh never looked like staging a serious comeback, although it wasn’t until the closing 15 minutes that Ulster made the game safe when Nick Timoney scored after Glen Young was binned for persistent fouling.

McInally almost signed off in style when he burst from outside the 22 before he was nabbed in the left corner by Kieran Treadwell and while he managed to offload in the tackle, van der Merwe was unable to hold the ball by the fingertips and the chance was lost after 71 minutes. A minute later Charlie Savala touched down but the try was scratched dubiously when Jamie Ritchie was pinged for a knock-on when he did well to juggle the ball as he was tackled.

They got a consolation score five minutes from time when WP Nel struck from close range, but by then Ulster were thinking of the knockout stages and Edinburgh were turning their attention to summer holidays after a frustrating campaign.

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