Ulster too good for hapless Cheetahs
PRO14 MATCH REPORT: Ulster cemented second place in Conference A with a scrappy 20-10 win over a willing Cheetahs team on Saturday.
Apart from taking a giant leap towards a place in the play-offs, the result also means it is now 21 games without defeat for Ulster at Kingspan.
Leinster Rugby, with 56 points and 12 wins from 12 starts, top the pool – followed by Ulster (37 – eight wins from 12 starts).
The loss also means Glasgow Warriors, who beat the Dragons in the other Saturday match, moves past the Cheetahs into third place – the last play-off spot.
* Did you miss any of the action? To recap all the drama, CLICK HERE!
After losing to Ospreys last time out Dan MacFarland’s side were able to get back to winning ways in cold and wet conditions in Belfast.
Tries from Tom O’Toole and Robert Baloucoune ensured Ulster claimed their eighth win of the Guinness PRO14 season.
In the early exchanges both sides were trying to find their attacking flair, but the hosts had to make a change with Marty Moore being replaced by O’Toole.
Ulster continued to build up pressure and with eight minutes on the clock O’Toole powered over from short range with Bill Johnston kicking the extras.
Cheetahs began to exert influence and when former Ulsterman Ruan Pienaar kicked to touch for a line-out five metres out the home side had to defend hard, but Johnston cleared the ball.
The Ulster flyhalf put his boot to use before the end of the first half when he slotted home a penalty following a high tackle.
But Cheetahs hit back immediately and got three points of their own from Pienaar to give Ulster a 10-3 lead at the break.
Wilmar Arnoldi was sent to the bin early in the second half for the Cheetahs and the hosts capitalised almost instantly.
Johnston executed a perfectly weighted cross-field kick for Baloucoune who duly crossed in the corner.
Cheetahs got back into the game with 15 minutes remaining when Clayton Blommetjies pounced from a team move after Sintu Manjezi intercepted the ball – Pienaar added the extras.
However, it wasn’t enough as Ulster extended their unbeaten streak at home, stretching back to October 2018.
Play of the Day
Ulster’s second try was the pick of the bunch.
Johnston had the foresight to spot the space on the right-hand side with Robert Baloucoune waiting to run in a well-executed try – he just can’t stop scoring.
Man of the Match
Ulster flyhalf Bill Johnston was at the heart of everything in difficult conditions.
It was a night when game management was needed, and Johnston ensured his side returned to winning ways kicking ten points and setting up Baloucoune’s try.
Tries: O’Toole, Baloucoune
Cons: Johnston 2
Pens: Johnston 2
For the Cheetahs:
Yellow card: Wilmar Arnoldi (Cheetahs, 44)
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 James Hume, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 David Shanahan, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Nick Timoney, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Stewart Moore, 23 Craig Gilroy
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rhyno Smith, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Craig Barry, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Chris Massyn, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Wilmar Arnoldi, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Joseph Dweba;, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Aranos Coetzee, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Louis Fouche, 23 Chris Smit
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Match report by @PRO14Official
Try time 🙌
Rob Baloucoune is rewarded for his patience as Bill Johnston puts a delightful nudge out to him for @UlsterRugby‘s second score 👏#GuinnessPRO14 #ULSvCHE
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— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) February 22, 2020