Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Ryan Byrne/INPHO
# luckless
Ulster win again but Will Addison carried off on a stretcher with serious-looking injury
Ulster defeated the Lions with a bonus-point win at Kingspan Stadium tonight.



Garry Doyle at Kingspan Stadium

THERE IS NO such thing as a perfect night. Munster were reminded of this last week in Llanelli, Ulster this evening in Belfast.

They may have won; they may have secured a fourth straight bonus-point but there won’t be any celebration. How could there be? Once again Will Addison left the stadium with the prospect of a lengthy lay-off up ahead. The man really is luckless.

Forty-six minutes were on the clock when Addison went down. A stretcher was called for, the Ravenhill crowd standing up for their bruised Ulsterman as he was carried from the field.

Back on the pitch, Ulster carried on their good work. In many ways this was a flawed display, too many handling errors resulting in their copybook being covered in red ink, but when you strip everything back, you can’t be overly critical.

will-addison-goes-off-injured Ryan Byrne / INPHO Addison goes off injured. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Four times they’ve gone to the well this season. Each time they’ve got what they sought. Tonight was no different. Four tries, a mix of inventive running, some smart kicking and a largely disciplined, controlled performance saw them wrap the game up as early as the 66th minute.

They started at an electrifying pace and showed us what happens when they play without fear. The Lions kicked; Ulster ran it back. All the good stuff in the opening 10 minutes belonged to them, the tempo Nathan Doak was setting at scrum-half, the lines David McCann and Nick Timoney were running off their No9.

They’d already showed their hand with a gimmicky line-out before they scored from this same route after barely four minutes, Timoney crashing through a gap to collect Rob Herring’s throw before stretching across the line to put Ulster five points up.

You expected them to kick on from there but that wasn’t how it transpired. The contest remained balanced, the Lions posing a counter-attacking threat particularly through their winger, Rabz Maxwane, who looks a cracking bit of stuff.

To be fair, they have a few more who can play, their opening try proving this, Ruhan Straeuli taking a ball at the tail of the line-out before carrying close to the Ulster line. From here a try was inevitable, as Vincent Tshituka sucked in a few more Ulster defenders with his carry, providing the space for half-backs, Andre Warner and EW Viljoen, to exploit. Wing, Stean Pienaar, finished things off, Viljoen converting to put the Lions 7-5 up, 17 minutes played.

stean-pienaar-scores-his-sides-first-try Ryan Byrne / INPHO Stean Pienaar scores his side's first try. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

It was a game filled with these little moments. Ulster, for long periods, would dominate possession, sending the ball through the hands of their backs, stretching the Lions with some patient, yet penetrative play.

They could have scored more. A great move on 29 minutes saw the play move to the left wing where McCann spilled Ethan McIlroy’s pass.

Other incidents told a similar story. Billy Burns missed touch with a penalty – shades of Cardiff and the sin he committed for Ireland there – Will Addison delivered a forward pass as Ulster entered the Lions’ 22; Tom O’Toole threw a couple of sublime passes but also one careless one as Ulster, once again, threatened to score.

Eventually, on 37 minutes, they would, Burns at the heart of the move, first with a half-break, later with a superb, floated pass over two defenders into the arms of James Hume who had no trouble finishing it off. Doak converted, and Ulster had a 12-7 lead.

Not for long, though. On the stroke of half-time, Viljoen landed a monstrous kick and the gap was back down to two, Ulster 12-10 Lions.

Onto the second-half. All the early drama came in the opening six minutes of it, Addison going off with his injury, Matty Rea getting across for Ulster’s third try from the subsequent play. Doak added the conversion and you just couldn’t see a way back for the South Africans at that point.

They did come close. Maxwane’s pace forced Michael Lowry to backpedal at pace and survive a ferocious hit when gathering the ball; Timoney’s 61st minute turnover stopped a certain score just as the Lions were building territory and momentum.

Ultimately, though, Ulster were just too good. On 66 minutes Timoney got his second try, a close-range effort, the scoreboard ticked over to 26-10 and you simply knew there was no way back for these proud Lions.

Ulster scorers

Tries: Timoney 2, Hume, Rea

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Conversions: Doak (3/4)


Lions scorers:

Tries: Stean Pienaar

Conversions: EW Viljoen (1/1)

Penalties: Viljoen (1/1)

Will Addison (rep: Michael Lowry ’46); Craig Gilroy, James Hume, Stewart Moore (rep: Ben Moxham ’75), Ethan McIlroy; Billy Burns, Nathan Doak (rep: Dave Shanahan ’75); Andrew Warwick (rep: Eric O’Sullivan ’52), Rob Herring (rep: Brad Roberts ’58), Tom O’Toole (rep: Ross Kane’67); Alan O’Connor, Sam Carter (rep: Kieran Treadwell ’45); Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, David McCann (rep:Sean Reidy ’58).

Divan Rossouw; Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass (rep: Fred Zeilinga ’37), Burger Odendaal (captain), Rabz Maxwane; EW Viljoen, Andre Warner (rep: Morne van den Berg ’65); Sti Sithole (rep: PJ Botha ’65), Jaco Visagie (Ruan Dreyer ’48), Carlu Sadie (rep:Asenathi Ntlabakanye ’61); Ruben Schoeman (Wilhelm van der Sluys ’65), Reinhard Nothnagel; Sibusiso Sangweni, Vincent Tshituka (rep: Emmanuel Tshituka ’66), Ruhan Straeuli.

Replacements: Wandisile Simelane.

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

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