Nathan Doak shines yet again as Ulster brush aside Benetton to maintain unbeaten start

Doak scored two of his side’s four tries as Ulster defeated Benetton Treviso 28-8 at Kingspan Stadium this evening.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO



Garry Doyle at Kingspan Stadium

AT LAST. AFTER all these years, at last.

Ulster, having listened for so long about their lack of homegrown talent, have suddenly got into a nice little habit of unearthing local stars.

Nathan Doak is the one who grabbed all the headlines here but you could do a lot worse than watch a highlights reel of David McCann’s performance, too. And while we’re at it, Ethan McIlroy doesn’t look too shabby, either.

There was a lot more to their win than just the sight of a few kids coming of age, though. More seasoned players, Rob Herring especially, but also Craig Gilroy and Sam Carter, did a lot of damage to Italian morale, Herring getting a try on his 200th appearance for the province, Carter providing him with the platform to do so.

Other things didn’t go unnoticed, either.

Ulster smothered the visiting team, getting under their skin. They soaked up pretty much everything in a defensive display so fast and destructive that Benetton rarely hit their stride. Unable to retain possession, the Italians then got used to life without the ball.

And that meant a whole lot of suffering inside their own five-metre line, Herring varying his throws between the middle and back of the line-out, Carter excelling in this department, while the Ulster maul functioned brilliantly.

Two of their three first-half tries stemmed from this route, Herring’s being a mixture of incessant pressure and a poacher’s instinct; Gilroy’s a result of a half-decent crossfield kick from Billy Burns that then took a favourable bounce to land in the winger’s hands.

craig-gilroy-scores-a-try Gilroy scores Ulster's first try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Best of the lot, though, was Doak’s score on 26 minutes, the young scrum-half setting a high tempo, recycling the ball following Stewart Moore’s carry, linking with Herring, recollecting possession from the hooker, then exchanging passes with McCann before angling his run cleverly for the line.

Better again, he converted all three tries, and Ulster left for the break with a 21-3 lead.

You wouldn’t have anticipated things working out quite so comfortably half-an-hour earlier, for the opening 10 minutes were uninspiring, neither team clicking into gear, Andrew Warwick’s first minute injury and Leonardo Marin’s seventh minute penalty the only moments of significance as Benetton built a three-point lead.

Ulster stuck to their philosophy, though, and the turnaround wasn’t long arriving. Benetton, winners of the Rainbow Cup last season, looked rattled by the intensity of Ulster’s mauling and started shipping penalties at an alarming rate, tight-head, Ivan Nemer, the fall-guy, when two or three Italians could have been penalised for collapsing an Ulster maul on 17 minutes.

By the time Nemer returned to the play, Ulster were 14-3 up, one line-out after another leading to a sequence of mauls, the damn finally bursting when Burns used his penalty advantage to kick into the Belfast sky. By the time the ball came down, Gilroy had it, and Ulster had a 7-3 lead.

Next came the Doak try, the scrum-half involved three times in the move, the precision of his passing matched by the power of his sprinting. Twenty six minutes played, Ulster 14-3 Benetton.

matty-rea-and-andrew-warwick-with-irne-herbst Matty Rea tackles Irne Herbst. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

It could have been more, Herring and Stewart Moore spilling possession on separate occasions as the line beckoned. Still Herring got the try his performance deserved seven minutes before half-time while a collective defensive effort on their own line prevented Benetton from getting a morale boosting score just before the break.

Onto the second half and the zip went out of Ulster’s play, a quintet of substitutions helping Benetton’s cause, not least the 50th introduction of Sebastian Negri,who gave them oxygen when they most needed it.

With possession more evenly divided in the second half, it was no surprise to see a Benetton try -Ratuva Tavuyara with the finish, Craig Gilroy left with no chance of stopping him. That should have sparked them to life but the truth is they didn’t play terribly well.

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Ulster, too, will need to improve as the season goes on but with Iain Henderson, Jacob Stockdale, Robert Baloucoune, Stuart McCloskey, John Cooney, Jack McGrath, Jordi Murphy, Eric O’Sullivan and Marty Moore all due to return from injury, that shouldn’t be a problem. Ultimately, Benetton weren’t much of a problem, either, their misery completed when Doak crossed for his second try on 79 minutes.

Ulster scorers

Tries: Gilroy, Doak 2, Herring,

Conversions: Doak (4/4)

Benetton scorers

Tries: Ratuva Tavuyara

Conversions: Marin (1/1)

Penalties: Marin (0/1)

Ulster: Will Addison (rep: Ben Moxham ’77); Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore, Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns (rep: Mike Lowry ’41), Nathan Doak (rep: David Shanahan ’77); Andrew Warwick (rep: Callum Reid ’2), Rob Herring (rep: Brad Roberts ’69), Tom O’Toole (rep: Ross Kane ’55); Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (rep: Mick Kearney ’51); Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann (rep: Sean Reidy ’65).

Benetton: Rhyno Smith; Ratuva Tavuyara, Marco Zanon, Tommaso Benvenuti (rep:Luca Morisi ’62), Luca Sperandio; Leonardo Marin, Callum Braley; Federico Zani (rep: Cherif Traoré ’40), Corniel Els (rep: Tomas Baravalle ’50), Ivan Nemer (yellow card 17-27) (rep: Tiziano Pasquali ’49); Irné Herbst (rep: Marco Lazzaroni ’50), Federico Ruzza; Giovanni Pettinelli, Michele Lamaro (Sebastian Negri ’50), Braam Steyn (rep: Tiziano Pasquali ’17-27) (rep: Lorenzo Cannone ’72),

Referee: AJ Jacobs (South Africa)

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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