Ulster deal Edinburgh a big blow
PRO14 REPORT: Ulster sealed second place in Conference B, with a professionally won 29-7 triumph on the road at ‘Murrayfield.
Two scores in the first half from Jordi Murphy and Robert Baloucoune, coupled with stout Ulster defence, gave them a healthy platform as they held Edinburgh Rugby off throughout.
John Barclay’s second-half try looked to have sparked the hosts, but again Ulster’s rearguard action prevailed, nipping any danger in the bud at each crucial juncture of the match to frustrate Edinburgh and take a sweetly earned bonus-point back across the Irish Sea.
The visitors were first on the board through the boot of John Cooney, but were dealt a blow when Marty Moore hobbled off inside ten minutes of play.
In spite of the loss, the visitors rallied to open up a ten point lead in strangely sedate circumstances.
Winning the ball back on the Edinburgh line after a searching kick from Jacob Stockdale, the chance looked to have gone when Ulster lost it forward, but Murphy showed alert reactions to pounce on the ball and, after a little help from the TMO with no-one quite sure just what had happened, the loose ball was adjudged a rip and the try was good.
Despite endeavour, Edinburgh couldn’t get a foothold in the contest, as Ulster looked to add to their tally with tireless drives that threatened constantly.
And their misery was compounded with the seconds ticking on the first-half when Billy Burns looped a tempting pass wide right to Baloucoune, who darted round two Edinburgh defenders to dive into the corner and deal Edinburgh a sucker-punch blow on the cusp of the break.
Errant Edinburgh kicking set up Ulster for a crucial third score fifteen minutes into the second 40 when Henry Pyrgos box-kicked straight out.
From the resultant line-out, Ulster moved it across the width of the field, finding Rob Lyttle, who hurled down the touchline and, with three Edinburgh defenders hanging off him, bulldozed over.
But the score seemed to jolt the hosts into life, as Edinburgh took quick ball into Ulster territory, John Barclay showing fleet feet to step inside and take it across the line to break his side’s duck.
Ross Ford came on for his 199th appearance in an Edinburgh shirt, and possibly his last at ‘Murrayfield, to the delight of the partisan crowd, but couldn’t translate the atmosphere into penetration.
Instead, Ulster saw out the contest in style, holding Edinburgh at bay before notching up a bonus-point with a minute left on the clock when Burns put the finishing touches to a dangerous attack.
Tries: Murphy, Baloucoune, Lyttle, Burns
Cons: Cooney 3
Edinburgh: 15 Darcy Graham, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 John Barclay, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 George Taylor.
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Nick Timoney, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Iain Henderson (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Peter Nelson, 23 Angus Kernohan.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Lloyd Linton (Scotland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)