Ulster cruise past error-prone Lions
URC MATCH REPORT: Irish province Ulster maintained their perfect start to the season with a comfortable 26-10 win over an error-prone Lions team at Ravenhill in Belfast on Friday.
Despite holding a narrow two-point lead (12-10) at the break, the home team pulled clear with two unanswered tries after the break.
The Lions, willing as they were, simply could not string enough threatening phases together to threaten the solid Ulster defensive lines.
And it did help their cause that they made a litany of handling errors and took some very poor options.
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The win allowed the Irish province to return to the top of the United Rugby Championship table with James Hume and Matty Rea also crossing for tries in a hard-fought game which saw Ulster lead 12-10 at half-time.
Ulster had their first score after just three minutes when a short lineout throw to Andrew Warwick allowed him to find Timoney, who had peeled around.
Nathan Doak missed the conversion but instead of pushing on, several errors allowed the Lions back in the game and on 17 minutes they worked their way over the line through Stean Pienaar with EW Viljoen converting to put the visitors ahead 7-5.
After 34 minutes Ulster seized back the lead when a multi-phase attack resulted in Hume crossing the line with a man spare after the Irish province had simply worn the Lions’ defence out.
This time Doak converted and Ulster now led 12-7 but the half ended with the Lions closing the gap thanks to Viljoen’s long-range penalty.
After Will Addison was stretchered off early in the second half, following a collision with a Lions player, Ulster had try number three sewn up when a tap and go resulted in Rea being driven over the line with Doak converting again.
Ulster then should have had their bonus point when Tom O’Toole’s pass to Alan O’Connor sent the lock charging for the line only to be held up short with Doak trying to wriggle over when a pass ought to have been thrown.
The bonus point still looked inevitable and came when Timoney dotted down for the second time from a close-in drive with Doak converting
Player of the match
Timoney has been one of Ulster’s most consistent performers this season and against the Lions, he again put down a marker and also scored two tries.
His haul takes him to five touchdowns for the season so far and must be pushing him towards inclusion in Ireland coach Andy Farrell’s plans for the autumn.
Play of the match
Ulster’s opening try, which came from a clever lineout move after three minutes.
Rob Herring threw short to prop Warwick at the front and he pivoted to hit Timoney’s steaming run to the front perfectly with the ball.
Tries: Timoney 2, Hume, Rea
Cons: Doak 3
For the Lions
Ulster: 15 Will Addison, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Nathan Doak, 8 David McCann, 7 Nick Timoney, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Tom O’Toole, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Andrew Warwick.
Replacements: 16 Brad Roberts, 17 Eric O’Sullivan, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Mike Lowry, 23 Ben Moxham.
Lions: 15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 EW Viljoen, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Ruhan Straeuli, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Sibusiso Sangweni, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Wandisile Simelane.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Robert O’Sullivan (Ireland), Dermot Blake (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)