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Difficult conditions fail to dampen spirits as Ulster pick up bonus-point win over Scarlets

Billy Burns pulled the strings as the Irish province ran out 15-point winners at Kingspan Stadium.
Dec 14th 2018, 10:07 PM 15,641 28

Ulster 30

Scarlets 15

Adam McKendry reports from Kingspan Stadium

ULSTER TOOK ANOTHER big step towards the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup with another scintillating performance in a 30-15 bonus point win over the Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium.

Billy Burns pulled the strings from fly-half in horrendous conditions in Belfast as the Irish province took the maximum haul with an excellent second-half display that saw them score three of their four tries.

It means that with the two games in January left to go – home to Racing 92 and away to Leicester Tigers – their destiny very much is in their own hands, while their much -improved outings over the last two weeks will have delighted head coach Dan McFarland.

Jacob Stockdale celebrates scoring a try Jacob Stockdale celebrates as he crosses for Ulster this evening. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Playing with the stiff breeze at their backs in the first half, Burns tortured the Scarlets’ back three with persistent up-and-unders that swirled in the Belfast wind.

It didn’t affect John Cooney’s kicking performance from the tee, however, and he gave the Ulstermen the lead in the ninth minute with a sweetly struck penalty from the 10m line.

Will Addison then thought he’d scored when Henry Speight set him over the line, only for referee Luke Pearce to call it back as the Fijian’s pass was forward after he caught a beautiful crossfield kick from Burns.

John Cooney kicks a score John Cooney splits the posts for Ulster. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The former Wallaby winger then passed up a glorious opportunity to score a try himself as Ulster began to pile on the pressure, this time Addison providing the assist as he stabbed a kick through only for Speight to knock on as he dived onto it at the line.

But as the penalties piled up against the Welsh side, the patience ran out from the officials, and when Wyn Jones played the ball on the floor illegally, out came the yellow card.

With the extra man, Ulster finally struck. Speight and Marcell Coetzee provided barnstorming carries off the back of a scrum to take the Irish province under the posts, and from there Iain Henderson was able to muscle his way over with the help of Rory Best and Jordi Murphy.

Wyn Jones after receiving a yellow card Wyn Jones leaves the pitch after receiving a yellow card. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The lead would only be seven at the interval though, Rhys Patchell dinking over a late penalty to take the sides in at 10-3, and shortly after the restart the Welsh side tied it up in incredible circumstances.

After Ulster worked their way up to the five metre line thanks to a crossfield kick from Burns to Jacob Stockdale – the first of many in the second half – Gareth Davies did brilliantly to read a Cooney pass and pick it off.

From there it was a foot race between the scrum half and Addison up the rest of the pitch and, when the Ulster centre won it, Davies kicked ahead for his namesake Jonathan to race onto and dive over for the try.

Perhaps a hammer blow to many, but not to Ulster, who immediately responded in kind two minutes later.

It was Addison the starter, his burst down the wing creating the space after being set away by Speight, Burns the creator with his inch-perfect crossfield kick landing right in the hands of Stockdale, the scorer, who barraged his way over from close range.

Cooney missed the conversion, but he did add a penalty just before the hour to consolidate the hosts’ lead before they made sure the game was put to bed and they had achieved everything on offer.

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Will Addison and Billy Burns with Tom Prydie Ulster's Will Addison and Billy Burns tackle Tom Prydie. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Again it was Burns with a crossfield kick in behind that caught out the visitors, this time connecting with Louis Ludik, and from there all it needed was patience from the hosts to get them over as Henderson was again helped over the line, this time by McCloskey and Speight.

The bonus point try, it seemed, would only be a matter of time, and so it proved.

It came 12 minutes from time and off the back of a driving maul from the Ulster pack, captain Rory Best on his record-breaking 72nd European appearance thundering towards the line and, when he was stopped inches short, Cooney picked up from the base of the ruck and dived over for the fourth score.

Rory Best gets over the line but is held up Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Scarlets did get a reply when Tom Prydie raced onto Dan Jones’ grubber kick through with two minutes remaining, but it was mere consolation, if even that.

Ulster are now looking ahead to January with the prospect of a first appearance in the quarter-finals now a reality rather than just a hope.

Ulster Scorers

Tries: Henderson (2), Stockdale, Cooney

Conversions: Cooney (2)

Penalties: Cooney (2)

Scarlets Scorers

Tries: J Davies, Prydie

Conversions: Patchell

Penalties: Patchell

ULSTER: Louis Ludik; Henry Speight, Will Addison, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale (Darren Cave 58); Billy Burns (Johnny McPhillips 68), John Cooney; (1-8) Eric O’Sullivan (Kyle McCall 64), Rory Best (Rob Herring 68), Marty Moore (Tom O’Toole 68); Iain Henderson, Kieran Treadwell (Matty Rea 77); Sean Reidy, Jordi Murphy, Marcell Coetzee (Nick Timoney 68).

SCARLETS: Johnny McNicholl (Dan Jones 53); Tom Prydie, Jonathan Davies (Paul Asquith 60), Hadleigh Parkes, Steff Evans; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies (Sam Hidalgo-Clyne 64); Wyn Jones (Phil Price 68), Ken Owens (Ryan Elias 53), Samson Lee (Werner Kruger 60); Jake Ball (Tom Price 77), David Bulbring; Lewis Rawlins (Josh Helps 77), Will Boyde, Uzair Cassiem.

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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Adam McKendry


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