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Last-gasp drop goal sees Edinburgh overcome Ulster

It was no less than the Scots deserved as they controlled most of the possession.

Ulster's Stuart McCloskey holds off Edinburgh's Chris Dean.
Ulster's Stuart McCloskey holds off Edinburgh's Chris Dean.
Image: Matt Mackey/INPHO

Ulster Rugby 16

Edinburgh Rugby 17

DUNCAN WEIR’S LAST play drop goal handed Edinburgh a tense 17-16 win at Kingspan Stadium as they leapfrogged Ulster into third in Conference B of the Guinness PRO14.

It was no less than the Scots deserved as they controlled most of the possession and territory throughout the game, with Weir’s drop goal securing four points that makes them definite play-off contenders.

It’s a humbling defeat for Ulster, who suffer a first loss under Jono Gibbes and now face a severe uphill battle to make the end-of-season play-offs with just two home games left and a wretched away record.

There can’t have been many worse starts to a game imaginable for Ulster than watching Craig Gilroy walk off clutching his chest after seven minutes though, the winger forced off after taking a big hit early.

They did, however, take the lead three minutes later, as some beautiful handling sent John Cooney over for the game’s opening score, after good interplay between Louis Ludik and Nick Timoney saw the former send scrumhalf Cooney under the posts from the halfway line.

That moment proved to be as good as it got for the hosts in the first half though, and instead they spent much of the first 40 showing off their defensive capabilities as opposed to their offensive flair.

Twice they were handed reprieves by the wasteful Scots, both by flanker Viliame Mata, the Fijian stepping into touch before scoring off the back of a maul in the corner, before then dropping the ball over the line as Edinburgh pressed.

The visitors’ first-half score didn’t come from any sustained pressure, rather from deep. Mark Bennett made the initial carry to put Ulster on the back foot and Hidalgo-Clyne then carried from 22 to 22 before kicking through. Thereafter, it was a battle of speed between Tommy Bowe and Jason Harries, with the Scottish speedster showing a quicker set of heels than his veteran counterpart to dot down.

It could have been worse for Ulster, as they had to show more good defence to deny the visitors at the end of the first half, before Cooney slotted two penalties after the restart to take them into a six-point lead.

But on too many occasions, the hosts were having to rely on their defence to bail them out, and before long, the wall was going to crumble, as it eventually did.

Again, Hidalgo-Clyne was the instigator, taking a quick tap penalty in midfield that took Edinburgh to the 22, and an inside pass from there sent the rampaging lock Lewis Carmichael over the whitewash to put the visitors back ahead.

Instantly, Ulster responded, with Cooney kicking a third penalty to put them back ahead, but when presented with the chance to kill the game off, the Ulstermen couldn’t keep hold of the ball.

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Whether Tommy Bowe’s decision to try to keep a kick to the corner in, inadvertently causing it to roll out deep in the 22, would have made a difference is debatable, but it’s what led to Weir’s game-winning kick.

After being denied at the line with two seconds to go, a solid scrum provided the platform for the fly-half to step up and put the kick over before being swamped by his delighted team-mates.

The scorersFor UlsterTry: Cooney

Con: Cooney (1 from 1)

Pens: Cooney (3 from 3)

For Edinburgh

Tries: Harries, Carmichael

Cons: Hidalgo-Clyne (2 from 2)

Drop: Weir (1 from 1)

ULSTER RUGBY

(15-9) Louis Ludik, Craig Gilroy (David Busby 7), Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey, Tommy Bowe, Johnny McPhillips (Jonny Stewart 36), John Cooney; (1-8) Andrew Warwick (Kyle McCall 53), Rob Herring (John Andrew 53), Wiehahn Herbst (Rodney Ah You 53), Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell (Matthew Dalton 66), Matt Rea, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel (Chris Henry 55).

Sub not used: Darren Cave.

EDINBURGH RUGBY (15-9) Dougie Fife, Jason Harries, Mark Bennett, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt (Duncan Weir 72), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Nathan Fowles 64); (1-8) Jordan Lay (Rory Sutherland 53), Neil Cochrane (Cameron Fenton 64), Murray McCallum (Elliot Millar Mills 53), Fraser McKenzie (Magnus Bradbury 72), Lewis Carmichael, Viliame Mata, John Hardie (Luke Crosbie 53), Cornell du Preez.

Sub not used: Glenn Bryce.

Man of the Match: Fraser McKenzie (Edinburgh)

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)

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