RUGBY: Last gasp drop goal gives Edinburgh crucial away win over Ulster


John Cooney scores a try for Ulster
John Cooney scores a try for Ulster

A drop goal from replacement Duncan Weir two minutes in added time gave Edinburgh a deserved win over Ulster in Belfast.

The win for the Scots also moved them into third place in t he table, leapfrogging the Irish Province, whose problems are obviously deeper than just removing director of rugby Les Kiss three weeks ago.

Ulster held the advantage in what was a rather scrappy opening exchange from the sides.

Jean Deysel, John Cooney and Stuart McCloskey linked well early on to establish some territory and Cooney also popped a lovely angled kick into touch to keep the pressure on the Scots.

Craig Gilroy went down early with a rib injury after he had also made some inroads and when he gathered another high ball and was dumped into touch, there was little chance he was continuing. David Busby came on in the seventh minute for his third cap to replace the stricken Gilroy who had scored a hat-trick of tries the previous week in the win over Southern Kings.

A minute later Ulster had taken the lead. Louis Ludik, in at fullback, made the initial surge, backrow Nicky Timoney showed great strength and handling skills to pop the ball back to Ludik and he sends scrumhalf Cooney away to score under the posts, leaving his won conversion a formality and it was 7-0.

Edinburgh enjoyed a spell of pressure, but it never really threatened the well organised home defence, although a kick ah ead by outhalf Jaco van der Walt, did not look to be troubling the hosts, but the bounce was awkward and Johnny McPhillips gathered and was then penalised for holidng in the tackle. Edinburgh almost scored off the resulting lineout, but Vilame Mata was caught sneaking round the front by the home defence.

Edinburgh then lost their lineout, Cooney's kick was charged down as the all action centred on the Ulster try line.

The Scots looked for width to the right in finding a way through the tight Ulster defence, It appeared as though the direct approach had yielded a score under the posts, but Mata lost control of the ball as the whitewash appeared and it was a big let off for the home side.

Edinburgh came again, moving ball wide but Ulster centre was up quickly to take the steam out of it, only to be hit illegally by lock and Edinburgh captain Frasier McKenzie. - which on review by TMO rightly yielded a straight penalty call from referee Nigel Owens.

Ulster did put themselves in a good position off the penalty and lineout, but they were unable to hold possession, Edinburgh centre Chris Dean took over, stormed through McPhillips, scrumhalf Sam Hildalgo-Clyne broke away, his perfectly angled grubber kicked bounced into the path of winger Jason Harries for him to score in the corner. Clyne convered from the touchline to leave the visiitors level after 34 minutes.

During the conversion McPhillips was replaced by Johnny Stewart, Cooney moving to outhalf.,

Cooney landed a long range penalty kick three minutes into the second half to nudge Ulster into a 10-7 lead.

The injury woes continued for Ulster, replacement Busby went off and Darren Cave was summoned from the bench a minute later.

Edinburgh really began to turn the screw. Their pack build continually through the phases, Mata a prominent figure carrying ball over the gainline. The amount of pressure absorbed by Ulster was immense and they eventually forced the Scots into an error which presented an opportunity to at least gain some respite.

Ulster kept possession well, although they played a lot in their own half, before a bit of the wily from Tommy Bowe earned a penalty. A scrum penalty presented Cooney with an opportunity and he goaled that on 55 minutes for a 13-7 lead.

Edinburgh had always looked threatening in that third quarter and it was no superise when they got ahead for the first time in the match after 63 minutes. Hildago-Clyne made an initial thrust supported by Harries., As the phases moved left it looked as though Ulster had it covered off but great play from the visiting locks McKenzie and Lewis Carmichael saw the latter cross for a try. Hildago-Clyne converted for a 14-13 lead.

The Scots were left kicking themselves minutes afterwards as they conceded a soft penalty and Cooney made it four from four kicks on the night and a 16-14 lead.

Ulster were defending for their lives again as Edinburgh pumped the pressure with great ball retention and going forward at every phase. Fortunately for the home side the visitors infringed at a maul and were let off the hook again.

Stewart's shocking attempt at a clearance kick set Edinburgh in motion again, but the home defence stood firm but another indiscretion again allowed the hosts off the hook.

There was one last assault from Edinburgh, they wre held up on the line, it came back off the scrum and Duncan Weir dropped the goal to snatch the win.