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Ulster close gap on Stormers

REPORT: A last-gasp penalty from John Cooney saw Ulster keep their United Rugby Championship play-off hopes on track with a 19-17 win over Cardiff after being behind for most of the game on Friday.

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David McCann scored Ulster’s only try but a pair of penalties from Nathan Doak and two and a conversion from Cooney proved crucial.

Theo Cabango went over for a pair of tries for the visitors with Tinus de Beer converting both and adding a penalty.

The result sees Ulster in sixth place on the log. They closed the points gap and are on 39 log points tied with fifth-placed Stormers.

Cardiff opened the scoring after 11 minutes when wing Cabango ran through some soft defence after coming in on an angle from a lineout. De Beer converted to put the visitors 7-0 ahead.

There were no further scores until the 27th minute – by which stage Ulster had lost centre James Hume to injury – when Doak got Ulster off the mark with a penalty much to the relief of the home crowd.

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After failing to score from two driving mauls, Ulster did register a score, Doak landing the penalty to narrow Cardiff’s lead to a solitary point.

The new half opened with Cabango’s second try, the wing skinning Ulster out wide and arcing in to score under the posts and allow De Beer the conversion to take Cardiff’s lead to 14-6.

More damage then came Ulster’s way when Jacob Stockdale was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on after 48 minutes though the province survived his 10-minute absence without conceding.

Indeed, just before Stockdale returned a penalty was kicked to the corner and though the possession was scrappy, McCann was the one to surge over the line.

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John Cooney, on for Doak, converted and Cardiff now led 14-13.

Cooney then stepped up again and kicked a long-range effort in the 65th minute when Cardiff were penalised at a breakdown, putting the home team in the lead for the first time in the game.

Then with less than 10 minutes to go Jude Postlethwaite was pinged at a breakdown and De Beer put the visitors back in the lead.

With two minutes remaining, and Ulster on the attack Rhys Carre was adjudged to have knocked on from Cooney’s pass and play was called back – Cabango having scored what he believed was his hat-trick at the other end – the replacement hooker was yellow carded, and Cooney was presented with the chance to go for the posts.

He nailed it and Ulster held on for what remained to win.

Player of the Match
Ulster lock Harry Sheridan put in a huge shift of work throughout his 80 minutes on the field and though Ulster struggled to impose themselves on this game the young lock put himself about with gusto to help get the Irish province this most vital result.

Play of the Match
Cardiff’s opening try from wing Theo Cabango was a beautifully constructed move off a lineout after Cardiff had put the ball into the corner. The ball was moved away from the set-piece and Cabango got on the end of a pass with an angled run which took him through several weak tackles to make the line.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Try: McCann
Con: Cooney
Pens: Doak 2, Cooney 2

For Cardiff:
Tries: Cabango 2
Cons: De Beer 2
Pen: De Beer

Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Mike Lowry, 13 James Hume, 12 Jude Postlethwaite, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Jake Flannery, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 Dave McCann, 7 Marcus Rea, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Alan O’Connor, 4 Harry Sheridan, 3 Scott Wilson, 2 Tom Stewart, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Cormac Izuchukwu, 20 Greg Jones, 21 John Cooney,22 Billy Burns, 23 Ethan McIlroy

Cardiff: 15 Cam Winnett, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Theo Cabango, 10 Tinus de Beer, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Thomas Young, 6 Alex Mann, 5 Teddy Williams, 4 Ben Donnell, 3 Keiron Assiratti, 2 Liam Belcher (captain), 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Rhys Carré, 17 Evan Lloyd, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Rory Thornton, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Mackenzie Martin, 22 Gonzalo Bertranou, 23 Jacob Beetham

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Andrew Cole (Ireland) and Sam Holt (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)

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