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Dublin: 2 °C Monday 16 December, 2019

Strong start enough to see Ulster past Cardiff

Early tries from Luke Marshall and Billy Burns put Ulster in control at Kingspan Ravenhill.

Billy Burns runs in a try for Ulster.
Billy Burns runs in a try for Ulster.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Ulster 23
Cardiff Blues 14

Adam McKendry reports from Kingspan Stadium

ULSTER DREW LEVEL at the top of Conference A in the Guinness Pro14, however it was a laboured display from the Irish province to see them to a 23-14 win over the Cardiff Blues at Kingspan Stadium.

After crossing for two tries before the 20-minute mark, Ulster could only manage six points beyond that point as they weathered a second-half storm from the Welsh side to emerge with the four points that takes them alongside Leinster and the Cheetahs in the table.

John Cooney kicked 13 points for the hosts as they made it three wins from their opening four games, but this is another performance that has left them with more questions than answers, particularly as they were bested up front by the Blues.

There was also an early blow for Ulster as, having just made an excellent carry through the midfield, centre James Hume had to be carted from the field after just two minutes through injury, adding to the province’s centre woes with Stuart McCloskey also out.

But on the scoreboard they were laughing in the early stages. From the first scrum of the game, Blues out-half Jarrod Evans took too long to kick clear and allowed Sean Reidy to charge him down and regather the ball, with the flanker showing great awareness to find the supporting Luke Marshall on his outside shoulder, who took it the rest of the way for the opening try.

They had their second inside the halfway point of the first period too, playing with a penalty advantage in the visitors’ 22, Matty Rea and Marcell Coetzee both contributed big carries in the build-up before Billy Burns dummied to pass and instead went through a tackle to go under the posts for the score.

luke-marshall-is-congratulated-after-scoring-a-try Luke Marshall is congratulated after his early try. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The Blues threatened for the first time when former Ulster hero Nick Williams gave a deft pass to Will Boyde, who broke the line and hacked through for Lloyd Williams to chase, only for Louis Ludik to scramble back just in time to gather the ball at the line to deny the scrum-half a certain score.

But the Welsh side’s persistent pressure finally paid off as Luke Marshall was sent to the sin-bin for an accumulation of infringements from the hosts in their own 22, however they couldn’t make the most of it as Ulster held out until the break.

It took them just three minutes of the second period to get their score though, although it came with its fair share of controversy. Matthew Morgan’s pass to send Rory Thornton through a gap looked to be rather blatant, but it was waved off by both the referee and TMO, and winger Aled Summerhill was on hand to pick-and-go from the ruck and slide over for the score.

Cooney responded with a penalty almost immediately from the restart, but it was he who was the unfortunate party when the visitors pulled it back to a one-score game again.

The returning Will Addison had seared out of his own 22 on turnover ball, only for the Blues to turn him over in response, and when the kick went in behind from the Welshmen it was Cooney who couldn’t gather on his own line, allowing Jason Harries to scoop it up and regain possession.

Although the winger couldn’t score himself, the ball was flung along the line to the waiting Will Boyde out on the other flank and the blindside was able to saunter over for the score.

But with all the momentum, a dominant scrum and maul, Cardiff couldn’t find the momentum to potentially grab a go-ahead score, and instead when Ulster forced an excellent turnover in the Cardiff 22, Cooney was on hand to make amends by putting the game beyond the visitors.

Jarrod Evans, who had been flawless from the tee up to this point, had a chance to steal a losing bonus point with a penalty with the final play of the game, but he painfully pushed it wide from right in front of the posts.

Ulster scorers: 
Tries: Luke Marshall, Billy Burns

Conversions: John Cooney (2 from 2)

Penalties: John Cooney (3 from 3)

Cardiff scorers:

Tries: Aled Summerhill, Will Boyde

Conversions: Jarrod Evans (2 from 2)

Penalties: Jarrod Evans (0 from 1)

ULSTER: Will Addison; Louis Ludik, Luke Marshall, James Hume (Matt Faddes 3), Craig Gilroy; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Jack McGrath (Eric O’Sullivan 50), John Andrew (Adam McBurney 59), Tom O’Toole (Ross Kane 66); Alan O’Connor (Sam Carter 50), Kieran Treadwell; Matthew Rea, Sean Reidy (Nick Timoney 59), Marcell Coetzee.
Yellow card: Luke Marshall (40′)

CARDIFF BLUES: Matthew Morgan (Jason Tovey 68); Jason Harries, Garyn Smith (Harri Millard 61), Willis Halaholo, Aled Summerhill; Jarrod Evans, Lloyd Williams (Lewis Evans 66); Bradley Thyer (Corey Domachowski 52), Liam Belcher (Kristian Dacey 59), Scott Andrews (Keiron Assiratti 68); Josh Turnbull, Rory Thornton (Seb Davies 59); Will Boyde, Olly Robinson, Nick Williams (Shane Lewis-Hughes 48).

Man of the Match: John Cooney (Ulster)

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

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