Ulster secure hard-fought win over Cardiff
REPORT: Ulster made it four wins from four in the 2020/21 PRO14 campaign as they battled past Cardiff Blues 11-7 in a hard-fought encounter at Rodney Parade.
Michael Lowry’s try in first-half stoppage time proved pivotal in South Wales, with John Cooney adding two penalties as he moved past 500 points in the competition.
Rey Lee-Lo’s score following Jarrod Evans’ delicate chip had put Blues into the lead in the opening period but Ulster fought back to continue their victorious start to the season.
The hosts have now lost two on the spin having started the campaign with consecutive victories.
Ulster dominated the early territory but couldn’t break down a stubborn Cardiff defence in the opening quarter of an hour, spurning their best opportunity when a lineout in a good position was turned over by the hosts.
John Cooney’s penalty broke the deadlock on 17 minutes, the Ulster scrum-half moving past 500 Guinness PRO14 points in the process, but Blues hit back in style with the first try of the game.
Will Boyde hit a great line to gain yards in midfield and when the ball was recycled, a perfectly judged chip by Jarrod Evans landed nicely for Rey Lee-Lo to touch down.
Evans added the extras but his side spent the remainder of the first half camped on their own line attempting to repel wave after wave of Ulster scrums.
The pack could not find a way through but, with the clock in the red, the ball came out to the backs and Michael Lowry skipped through to score a fine individual try.
Cooney’s conversion slid wide to keep the half-time lead at 8-7 and Blues missed a good chance to re-take the lead when Evans was off target with a 45th-minute penalty.
Both sides then failed to take advantage of presentable scrum positions and it remained a one-point game going into the last 20 minutes, following a sizeable stoppage following a head injury to Lee-Lo.
Cooney judged a penalty successfully in the wind to move Ulster four points clear and the scoreline remained unchanged thereafter as the visitors dug in with a solid defensive effort.
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Cooney 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Will Boyde, 7 James Botham, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 James Ratti, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Kristian Dacey (captain), 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Ben Murphy, 20 Olly Robinson, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 James Tovey, 23 Garyn Smith.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Stewart Moore, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns (captain), 9 John Cooney, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Adam McBurney, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Ethan McIlroy.
Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones, Ben Breakspear (both Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)