ULSTER BEAT CARDIFF Blues 39 — 21 at Ravenhill after running in five tries and overcoming injury adversity.
Mark Anscombe’s men won their sixth game in succession after tries from Dan Tuohy [two] and Jared Payne, Luke Marshall and Andrew Trimble. The bonus point victory was tempered somewhat by first-half injuries to forward stalwarts Rory Best and Johann Muller.
Paddy Jackson got the scoring underway with an early penalty but it was cancelled out, after 10 minutes, by Leigh Halfpenny. Ulster captain Muller pulled up after less than 15 minutes but the majority of the Ravenhill crowd were focused on the fantastic, attacking rugby from the home side.
Payne sprinted up the right flank after the quarter hour mark and Ulster spun play out to the left wing. Marshall’s slick pass in midfield found Robbie Diack and he passed to in-form lock Dan Tuohy to dot down. Jackson missed the conversion as medics confirmed Muller’s evening’s work was over.
Misfortune and superb Ulster play were in evidence on 24 minutes as Rob Herring jogged on to replace injured hooker Best. His first contribution was to help the home pack win a penalty, through some powerful scrummaging, 10 metres out.
Ruan Pienaar was thinking on his feet as he took a quick-tap and passed to Tommy Bowe. The winger skipped out Marshall with his pass and found Payne, who duly slid over in the left corner:
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Jackson missed his second conversion but was on target with a 27th minute penalty as a dominant Ulster scrum wheeled the Blues pack. There was a mini fightback by Cardiff at the end of the half. Irish forward Robin Copeland muscled over for a try out wide and Halfpenny added a late penalty.
The home side started the second-half in a frenzy as they sought to see off Cardiff’s challenge. Fullback Stuart Olding made a break and found Marshall in support. There was a TMO to check if Olding’s pass was forward but it was ruled legitimate. Jackson’s trend of conversion misses and penalty successes continued and Ulster led 24 — 11 after 46 minutes.
The Welsh side defeated Heineken Cup champions Toulon last weekend at Cardiff Arms Park and had some belief in reserve. They rallied once more and Richard Smith crossed for a 51st minute try that Halfpenny converted.
Pienaar took over the kicking duties and slotted over a 45 metre beauty from near the left touchline. Halfpenny responded two minutes later and the Ulster faithful braced for a tight finish.
Confidence is coursing through the Ulster veins at present, however, and another dynamic attack, featuring some slick passing, resulted in the tryscoring bonus point. Olding took a pass 15 metres from the line and delayed his pass long enough to set Trimble up to dive over at the right corner. The missed conversion bug bit Pienaar but the extras merely added up to make the final scoreline closer than it should have.
Pienaar raised the biggest cheer of the night as he nailed Ulster’s only conversion of the night, right at the death. His touchline conversion followed Tuohy’s second try of the game after good work from Trimble and Darren Cave.
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