Sunday, November 05, 2017

Ulster edge past Southern Kings to move above Leinster

by Ciarán Duffy

Ulster have moved up to 2nd in the Pro12 woah woah I mean Pro14, sorry, old habits.  It was a mental game, one not short of highlights with 12 tries being scored.  And here I thought the most exciting part of this write up would be trying to decide whether I should call them THE Southern Kings or just Southern Kings.  

The game started off with a knock on for each side, before the home side took the lead with Klaasen getting the first of his two tries.  Not for the first time, the wind took the conversion well wide.  They would score again minutes later with fullback Penxe getting over in the corner.  This time the conversion from Zono was good.  Ulster had a chance to get their first points of the game, but they went for the corner rather than the posts.  The lineout was overthrown, which lead to Ulster conceding about 80 metres of territory.  

Southern Kings should have been out of sight really in the opening 20 minutes.  They were nearly in on two more occasions, the first of which saw Makase spill the ball with the line at his mercy after a succession of lineouts.  The home side then had a couple of scrums deep in the Ulster half, but ultimately, they weren’t clinical enough.  They would pay for that as Ulster got their first score.  Reidy touching down at the end of a great move, Piutau started it off by getting an offload away, the ball went through the hands, Trimble doing very well to present the ball under pressure, and Reidy was over.  The conversion was blown across the posts.  

Van Rooyen had to be stretchered off, before Zono kicked a penalty to extend Southern Kings lead to 10 points.  Ulster had been struggling at the lineout, but they got one right and mauled over the line, Andrew getting the credit.  Southern Kings hit back immediately with the final score of the half.  Makase showed incredible pace to get to the ball as it bounced over the try line, he just got a hand to it.  It was converted, Southern Kings led 22 – 10.  The South Africans would have to survive the last part of the first half with 14, Penxe was sinbinned for a deliberate knock on.  Ulster had a few lineouts to end the first 40, but couldn’t make anything of them, Kings lead by 12.  

Ulster may have been sluggish at the start of the first half, but they were wide awake to begin the 2nd.  Cooney got over the line, but the try wasn’t awarded, as the ref was blocking the potential tackler.  Farcical thing to happen, really poor positioning from the ref.  Ulster did get their reward for early pressure as once again the rolling maul worked well, Andrew getting his 2nd.  Cooney ensured Ulster would take at least a try scoring BP, Trimble doing very well to avoid going into touch in the build-up.  Ulster could have been in again, but Kings defended well on the line and eventually won a scrum.

Southern Kings would get a bonus point try through Klaasen just after the hour mark, a crucial score to stop Ulsters flow.  It was converted by Zono, the home side led 29 – 22.  Ulster were held up on the line, but they wouldn’t be denied a 5th try.  Andrew Trimble found a gap to get his 50th league try.  The conversion levelled the scores.  The last 10 minutes was like a game of 7s, Ulster went ahead for the first time after a quick tap and go, Clive Ross finishing it off.  Kings would equalize immediately, Penxe getting his 2nd, Coleman added the conversion.  Ulster hit back straight away.  Piutau got away to allow Diack to get in.  Leali’ifano converted, Ulster had won.

Plenty of problems from an Ulster perspective, they did very well to get away with a bonus point win based on their first half performance.  They had to dig deep to get this result, and it’s one that could prove crucial at the end of the season.  The break comes at a good time for Ulster, they have two winnable games against Treviso and Dragons next, matches that should see them build momentum.  Ulster move ahead of Leinster into a home quarter final slot.  

Let us know your thoughts on the game.  The Glasgow – Leinster write up will be up on Monday.  

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Ciarán Duffy (@TheVoiceDepth) is a Leinster supporter and self-proclaimed ‘big cheese’ of Post To Post (@PostToPostSport).   He’ll write about anything rugby under the condition he gets to take it too seriously.
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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019