Ulster dig deep in Italy but climb to third spot

Robbie Diack scoring the try
Robbie Diack scoring the try

Ulster were hanging on at the end of an unconvincing performance as they claimed a 14-12 victory over Benetton in Treviso.

It was the second consecutive match they held out at the end to win ugly and take a vital win.

Munster returned to the top of the table as they defeated fourth placed Ospreys and Ulster climbed to third place.

Darren Cave and Robbie Diack crossed for Ulster tries in the RaboDirect PRO12 tussle at Stadio Monigo but Ulster struggled to build on those, and four penalties from Treviso fly-half Mat Berquist made it closer than it needed to be come the closing stages.

The visitors brought impressive form with them to Italy, having been beaten just once in their past 10 outings, spanning all competitions. Against a Benetton side on a five-game losing run, it was hard to see Ulster being pushed close, but they very nearly went down to defeat, having to stave off late pressure as Benetton sought a winning score.

Berquist booted Benetton ahead early on, but once Ulster got their noses in front in the 11th minute, with Cave dashing over and Ruan Pienaar converting, the Irish team were never headed again.

Ulster were careless enough to let Benetton stay in touch though, giving away a penalty early in the second half that Berquist booted to narrow the gap to 7-6.

Diack burrowed over for Ulster’s second try in the 51st minute, and again Pienaar kicked the two points.

What should have then been a formality for Ulster became anything but as Berquist soon sliced into the lead with a pair of penalties, making for the tense finale that Ulster just about survived.

Diack, who has a habit of scoring tries against Italian sides, said: “We are disappointed in the way we played and in our discipline.

“Our set-piece wasn’t what it was so that was a relief to take the win, which was the most important aspect.”

Diack said the squad had to go back to the drawing board this week ahead of the visit of the Dragons to Ravenhill on Friday night.

“I think we let them (Treviso) in at our set-piece in the scrum in the first half and in the first one they got a penalty and that really got their tails up,” said Diack.

“They had a lot of firepower in their forwards and their backs and you just can’t allow that to happen but we did.”

“I think anyone could have got my try we just moved it through a few phases.

“It’s nice to get a try but all you want is for the team to play well. The last couple of games we haven’t played well but have still come away with wins so that is something.

“There are a couple of things we need to work on going into the Dragons game,” he added.

On Dragons

“The Dragons have a good squad and they are missing a couple of players to the Welsh side, we are just looking forward to being back at Ravenhill, the last couple of weeks have been stop start, we’re just looking forward to getting a bit of momentum and playing again in a couple of days time because the best way to rectify things is to get back on the pitch again and try to fix things.”