17-year-old winger Sexton makes his debut as Ulster slip to pre-season defeat

Gloucester’s power up-front proved crucial in this evening’s friendly at Kingspan Stadium.

Marty Moore and Mark Atkinson in action in Belfast.
Marty Moore and Mark Atkinson in action in Belfast.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ulster 17

Gloucester 29

Adam McKendry reports from Kingspan Stadium

ULSTER LOST THEIR opening friendly of the season as they conceded five tries in a 29-17 defeat to Premiership side Gloucester at Kingspan Stadium this evening.

Two sides showcasing plenty of young talent mixed with veteran squad players, including the fresh-faced 17-year-old winger Aaron Sexton on the home side, met in Belfast for a well-contested exhibition, which was edged by the forward power of the English outfit.

A slow start to the game, with both sides showing the ring rustiness of summer, was finally punctuated in the 12th minute when Mark Atkinson’s inside pass set his centre partner Jack Reeves through into empty space.

He in turn fed scrum-half Ben Vellacott, however a superb covering tackle from Jonny Stewart prevented a certain try, and a brilliant counter-ruck by Angus Kernohan stole possession back for the hosts.

Ulster were then let off again 10 minutes later, this time Ollie Thorley butchering a certain seven pointer when Vellacott put him clear down the left wing, only for the winger to refuse to pass back inside to his supporting scrum-half and get tackled by Pete Nelson.

But the dam eventually burst and it came in the 26th minute, Gloucester flexing their powerful forward muscles at the maul and, with the penalty advantage, it was all too easy for former Munster lock Gerbrandt Grobler to force his way over.

Having shown very little up to this point, Ulster pulled level just before the half hour mark when Kernohan was stopped just short of the line from a strike move, with prop Tom O’Toole taking it on further, and academy flanker Marcus Rea spotting the gap to dive over the line for the try.

Three minutes later they had a second when Nick Timoney issued a vicious fend on Reeves, leaving the centre on the floor and a clear path to the line that the impressive back row gladly took.

Henry Purdy scores a try Henry Purdy crossed for the visitors. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The visitors would lead at the break, however, and it came much in the same way to their first as with the penalty advantage, out-half Owen Williams stepped inside and beat both Rea and Timoney to cross for the try.

Seven minutes after the restart, Gloucester had a third, fullback Tom Hudson stabbing a kick in behind and when Nelson misread the bounce of the ball, winger Charlie Sharples took full advantage to hack through and finish.

As the raft of substitutes came on, as they usually do in friendlies, Ulster began to get on top as they sought a try to draw level and, after nearly 10 minutes of trying, they found it on the hour mark when three replacements combined.

Taking the ball to the line, out-half Billy Burns’ pass back inside set winger Sexton through, the Bangor Grammar student juggling before controlling, and his pass put academy centre James Hume over for the score.

That would prove to be Burns’ last meaningful contribution though, as he hobbled off clutching his groin with just over 10 minutes to play, looking in considerable pain, and Ulster soon lost their other out-half Lowry when he was removed as well after seemingly being checked illegally off the ball.

And the English visitors secured the win when replacement hooker Todd Gleave steered another dominant maul over the line for a debut try, capping an excellent night for their pack, before adding some icing to the cake when Henry Purdy sprinted over with the final play of the game.

Ulster scorers:

Tries: Rea, Timoney, Hume
Conversions: Nelson [1 from 3]

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Gloucester scorers:

Tries: Grobler, Williams, Sharples, Gleave, Purdy
Conversions: Williams [2 from 3], Twelvetrees [0 from 2]

ULSTER: Pete Nelson, Craig Gilroy, Stewart Moore, Darren Cave, Angus Kernohan, Michael Lowry, Jonny Stewart; Schalk van der Merwe, John Andrew, Tom O’Toole, Alan O’Connor, Alexander Thompson, Marcus Rea, Chris Henry, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: Adam McBurney, Kyle McCall, Eric O’Sullivan, Marty Moore, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Jack Regan, Caleb Montgomery, Clive Ross, Sean Reidy, Greg Jones, David Shanahan, Billy Burns, Angus Curtis, James Hume, Aaron Sexton, Jack Owens, Will Addison.

GLOUCESTER: Tom Hudson, Charlie Sharples, Jack Reeves, Mark Atkinson, Ollie Thorley, Owen Williams, Ben Vellacott; (1-8) Alex Seville, Henry Walker, Ciaran Knight, Tom Savage, Gerbrandt Grobler, Freddie Clarke, Jake Polledri, Gareth Evans.

Replacements: Franco Marais, Val Rapava Ruskin, Fraser Balmain, Mariano Galarza, Ruan Ackermann, Callum Braley, Lloyd Evans, Jason Woodward, Todd Gleave, Ed Slater, Lewis Ludlow, Ben Morgan, Billy Twelvetrees, Henry Trinder, Matt Banahan, Henry Purdy, Jake Morris.

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