ThorMeulen rocks as Ulster get crucial win
URC WRAP: Ulster returned to United Rugby Championship action with a 27-15 bonus-point win over Scarlets in Belfast.
After the scores were tied 10-all at half-time, the Irish side ran in three second-half tries through Sam Carter, Gareth Milasinovich and Craig Gilroy to secure the victory.
One of the standout players for the home team was World Cup-winning Springbok Duane Vermeulen – who made a match-high eight carries, 11 tackles and two turnovers.
Nathan Doak opened the scoring for the home side with a penalty in the third minute before Dan Jones did the same to level the match.
Ulster was held up when John Andrew – making his first start of the season – was enveloped by Carwyn Tuipulotu amongst others just as the hooker attempted to wriggle through for the score.
Just after Gilroy was yellow-carded in the 27th minute for a high hit on Tom Rogers, it was the visitors who went ahead when Lee muscled over from close range.
Jones kicked a great conversion and Scarlets deservedly led 10-3 after playing with more verve and ambition.
But Ulster struck back and, still with 14 men, ran a kickable penalty which allowed Angus Curtis to dot down near the posts, after Duane Vermeulen made the initial ground.
Doak’s conversion tied the scores just before Gilroy returned and the half ended with Jones missing a long-range shot at goal.
Tyler Morgan’s early break could have resulted in another Scarlets score only for Shaun Evans to knock on.
Ulster then responded when Ethan McIlroy broke a tackle, found space and fed Doak, whose kick through to the line was covered by Ioan Nicholas.
The hosts had their second try in the 52nd minute when Carter broke through from close range, though Doak missed the extras.
Then a huge set from the resultant scrum eventually ended in Scarlets replacement prop Mathias reaching the line.
Evans missed the conversion and the scores were tied at 15-15.
Ulster hit back in the 65th minute from Milasinovich’s effort, which was converted by Doak.
The bonus point was secured shortly afterwards when Gilroy touched down.
— United Rugby Championship (URC) (@URCOfficial) January 28, 2022
* Meanwhile, the Dragons were unable capitalise on Benetton’s raft of absentees as they were forced to settle for a 13-13 draw in a match they could have lost at the death.
The Welsh region were firm favourites to claim only a second win in their last 15 outings and their first home victory since April 25 with Benetton missing 23 players through international call-ups.
However, the Dragons not only had to be content with a draw after fighting back from 0-10 down, but they might easily have ended up defeated as Benetton flyhalf Tomas Albornoz’s last-gasp penalty fell short after Wales hooker Elliot Dee was sent off in the final minute for a dangerous challenge.
Ross Moriarty scored Dragons’ sole try with Sam Davies adding the conversion and two penalties but the hosts were unable to claim victory as they made too many unforced errors in a game of poor quality.
Corniel Els was Benetton’s try-scorer with Albornoz kicking two penalties and a conversion.
Former Stormers scrumhalf Dewald Duvenhage, the Benetton skipper, was named Man of the Match.
* All the Friday scores and scorers below!
Dragons 13-13 Benetton
Pens: Davies 2
Pens: Albornoz 2
Dragons: 15 Josh Lewis, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Aneurin Owen, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Ross Moriarty (c), 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harri Keddie, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Chris Coleman, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Aki Seiuli
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Josh Reynolds, 18 Mesake Doge, 19 Huw Taylor, 20 Dan Baker, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Jared Rosser, 23 Ioan Davies
Benetton: 15 Giacomo Da Re, 14 Lorenzo Pani, 13 Filippo Drago, 12 Joaquin Riera, 11 Tommaso Benvenuti, 10 Tomas Albornoz, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (c), 8 Lorenzo Cannone, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Matteo Meggiato, 5 Carl Wegner, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Nahuel Tetaz, 2 Corniel Els, 1 Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Nicola Piantella, 20 Braam Steyn, 21 Alessandro Garbisi, 22 Marco Zanon, 23 Tommy Bell
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Jason Bessant (Wales), John Darcy (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Ulster 27-15 Scarlets
Tries: Curtis, Carter, Milasinovich, Gilroy
Cons: Doak 2
Tries: Lee, Mathias
Ulster: 15 Ethan McIlroy, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Ben Moxham, 12 Angus Curtis, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Marcus Rea, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Alan O’Connor (c), 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Brad Roberts, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 David McCann, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Aaron Sexton
Scarlets: 15 Ioan Nicholas, 14 Tom Rogers, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes, 11 Ryan Conbeer, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Carwyn Tuipulotu, 7 Shaun Evans, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 5 Morgan Jones, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Daf Hughes (c), 1 Steff Thomas
Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Javan Sebastian, 19 Josh Helps, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Kieran Hardy, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Steff Evans
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Peter Marin (Ireland), Andrew Cole (Ireland)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Source: PA & @URCOfficial