Friday, March 08, 2013

Nipped in the Budd

Paddy Jackson’s man-of-the-match display didn’t stop the Ulstermen giving up top spot, writes Kristian Ross…

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Ulster Rugby lost top spot in the PRO12 after a late Benetton Treviso try saw the spoils shared in a 29-29 draw at Ravenhill.

Treviso who had been buoyed by a huge win over Munster the week before had already proved slippery opponents for many this season, and they started very well, good pressure by the Italians leading to the first penalty of the match, that was successfully slotted over by Alberto di Bernando.

The Ulstermen knew they couldn't let the team from Italy get into their stride, but Treviso did look very good, especially through their dangerous fullback Brendan Williams. However Ulster themselves produced a quick break and were awarded a penalty, Paddy Jackson was looking to put a disappointing place kicking performance in the Ireland game behind him from the week before a tough kick was pulled wide.

With injuries in both sides coming into play, Darren Cave being taken off for Ulster with a concussion, Ulster knew that the pressure they had produced had to tell and that it did, Andrew Trimble once again producing a fantastic try, cutting through the defence to leave a easy kick for Paddy Jackson to convert and give Ulster the advantage.

And it was Jackson again who gave Ulster a even more to smile about when thirteen minutes before the end of the first half he struck a superb kick to give Ulster a seven point cushion.

Treviso knew the next score was vital, and with Tommaso Iannone sent to the the task become harder, they never saw nineteen year old Stuart Olding coming, and he scored his second try for Ulster in consecutive matches with a truly fantastic try beating the last man with total confidence and leaving the easiest of kicks for Paddy Jackson as the lead was stretched to fourteen points at 17-3.

By this point, you're thinking it's a foregone conclusion, but from this moment on things started to unravel. With the end of the first half in sight, Iain Henderson who had put in a great shift was sent to the bin to make it 14v14 after he was judged to have kicked the ball out of the scrum half's hands, and Treviso peppered the Ulster lineout for four solid minutes until they finally found the breakthrough, Dean Budd going over in the corner unchallenged, and Alberto di Bernando's kick was a good one, a brilliant curling effort that cut Ulster's advantage to seven as the referee called half time.

The second half seems to have been crucial for the last few weeks for Ulster and as it started, Mark Anscombe's team knew they needed to slowly build and see this one out. And they had a decent enough start, an kickable penalty for Paddy Jackson wasn't a problem and he extended the advantage up to ten points.

Then came the negatives. A second sin bin for Ulster when Lewis Stephenson was sent for ten minutes when he committed his second high tackle offence of the game, and good work from the lineout following the penalty saw Treviso get right back into again, Robert Barbieri touching down, and di Bernando doing the business via the tee and now it was looking like a real challenge for the Ulstermen.

With the next score possibly going to swing the momentum and balance of the game, Paddy Jackson stepped up and under cool pressure bent a great kick over the sticks to give Ulster a small bit of breathing space.

As the final quarter was entered both teams understood the game was there for the taking, However it was of course Ulster who needed the points the most, and Ricky Andrew's charge down kick was smothered and Dean Budd scored his second of the night, and somehow Treviso were within one, and seconds later were in the lead as Alberto di Bernando scored the kick.

By the noise around Ravenhill the fans could hardly believe it, Ulster somehow behind. However the roar of noise spurred on Ulster as they made their way into Treviso territory, and the team in white were awarded a penalty. Paddy Jackson stepped up and put his kick wide, but was allowed to retake, after the Italians tried to charge down Jackson's kick, an illegal move. Jackson had no problem with the second attempt and Ulster were back in front with ten minutes to play. And then with three minutes to go after great Ulster pressure, Paddy Jackson looked to have sealed it when a penalty under the posts made it 29-24.

But then came disaster. Ulster have been prone to making poor mistakes and decisions over the last few weeks, and when Ulster lost the ball with just under two minutes to play, Treviso piled on huge pressure and incredibly with the clock at 78.47, Dean Budd scored his hat trick and Ulster were left kicking themselves as Budd tied the game and left Alberto di Bernando with a tough conversion to win the game.

Somehow Ulster had went from thinking they had four points, and now they only were going to get two, and perhaps even one if the conversion was missed, but Alberto di Bernando made sure that Treviso didn't beat Ulster at Ravenhill for the second year in a row, as a dismal night was completed with a draw.

Previewing Ulster's next game, it's a long way off, three weeks in fact, Edinburgh away, and a must win, Ulster's form has took a dip over the last few weeks, and Mark Anscombe will be simply furious that Ulster threw away the match. Good signs again from various players, Iain Henderson with a stormer before he was binned, Darren Cave played well before he was taken off injured, Stuart Olding displaying he looks far more capable at 12 and not 10, and Andrew Trimble showing that he has it.

So with the long break ahead of Ulster, they must have a rethink, the PRO12 has caught up with them in the last few weeks, and now the fight is on, Glasgow have gone top, Mark Anscombe and his team still have trophies in sight, but any more performances like this and it may just slip away....

As always though, keep the faith, and Stand Up For The Ulstermen.

I'm Kristian. 18. And my mind is filled with rugby shaped thoughts. Supporting Ulster Rugby, Newcastle Falcons and of course the mighty Ireland. Tommy Bowe is the MAN !!!! SUFTUM.

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