Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Southern Kings 10
JONO GIBBES’ TENURE in charge of Ulster began with a bang as his side ran in nine tries in a 59-10 win over a hapless Southern Kings outfit at Kingspan Stadium.
Craig Gilroy bagged a hat-trick on his return from injury as the hosts ran their visitors ragged in a game that was as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, with Rob Lyttle also crossing for a brace.
Source: Morgan Treacy
There will be concerns for Gibbes, however, after Charles Piutau, Sean Reidy and Lyttle all picked up what looked to be serious injuries during the game.
From the start it was clear what Ulster’s intentions were as they turned down a very kickable penalty right in front of the posts in favour of kicking to the corner, and they were immediately rewarded.
Breaking off the back of a maul, John Cooney moved at pace and Stuart McCloskey’s dummy run granted Gilroy the space to cross for his first as he shook off a flailing tackle in midfield to cross under the posts.
The second saw the roles reversed, Gilroy turning provider as fly half Johnny McPhillips, oozing composure on his first start, dummied to go to the centre and instead put the winger through, with McCloskey continuing the run on the inside to take it the rest of the way.
In between that Masixole Banda had brought the Kings back into it with a penalty, but the biggest concern to the hosts within their own half were two injuries suffered by Charles Piutau and Sean Reidy on defence as opposed to their opponents.
Fullback Piutau walked off clutching his arm in a maskeshift shirt sling, while Reidy had to be helped off by medical staff just after the half hour mark in obvious discomfort.
Not that that slowed down Ulster, who added their third minutes before the interval, Gilroy riding two tackles in an almost carbon copy score of their first off the back of another maul.
Source: Morgan Treacy
The winger was involved in Ulster’s fourth, their bonus point score, moments after the restart as a loose clearing kick from Rowan Gouws saw the hosts counter at pace and Gilroy got his hands free in the tackle to offload to Luke Marshall, who in turn put McPhillips over.
McPhillips then put Lyttle in for his first with an audacious pass over the top, showing great bravery, with the winger then putting on the afterburners to go over in the corner with little space to work with.
The seventh, and Gilroy’s hat trick score, was the pick of the bunch, Ulster turning the ball over in their own 22 under pressure and going on a rapid counter attack, McPhillips, McCloskey and Cooney all touching the ball before the winger carried it over in the corner.
Lyttle’s second at the hour mark wasn’t too dissimilar, although the diminutive speedster simply had to outpace the defenders tracking back after another counter-attack off a turnover in the 22, although he hurt himself in the process.
Source: Morgan Treacy
Harlon Klaassen did get a consolation for the visitors with ten minutes to go, another counter attacking score after Martin du Toit scooped up a loose offload from Luke Marshall, with hands seeing namesake Berton Klaassen put Harlon away.
But there was still time for Ulster to add two more, Kieran Treadwell crashing over with numbers wide after some good work from Nick Timoney, before Darren Cave rounded it all off with a brilliant solo effort two minutes from time.
Tries: Gilroy (3), McCloskey, McPhillips, Lyttle (2), Treadwell, Cave
Cons: Cooney (7 from 9)
Try: H Klaassen
Con: Banda (1 from 1)
Pen: Banda (1 from 1)
ULSTER RUGBY: Charles Piutau (Louis Ludik 21), Craig Gilroy, Luke Marshall, Stuart McCloskey (Darren Cave 56), Rob Lyttle (Matt Dalton 61), Johnny McPhillips (Johnny Stewart 56), John Cooney; Andy Warwick (Kyle McCall 56), John Andrew (Rob Herring 56), Wiehahn Herbst (Rodney Ah You 56, Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell, Matt Rea, Sean Reidy (Chris Henry 35), Nick Timoney.
SOUTHERN KINGS: Masixole Banda, Yaw Penxe, Berton Klaassen, Luzuko Vulindlu (Barend Janse van Rensburg 68’, Anthonie Volmink (Harkin Klaassen 52), Martin du Toit, Rowan Gouws (Godlen Masimla 63); Schalk Ferreira (Johan Smith 68), Michael Willemse (Stephan Coetzee 71), Pieter Scholtz (Dayan van der Westhuizen 63), Stephan Greeff (Jurie van Vuuren 63), Bobby de Wee, Andisa Ntsila, Martinus Burger (Eital Bredenkamp 71), Ruaan Lerm.
Referee: Joy Neville (Ireland)