GUINNESS PRO12: Ulster say no 'major concern' with Charles Piutau and Darren Cave injures during win over Edinburgh
Ulster will monitor Charles Piutau and Darren Cave over the weekend after they picked up injuries in the 24-18 win over Edinburgh in the Guinness PRO12 at Kingspan Stadium on Friday night.
Piutau suffered a lower left leg injury early in the second half of the bonus point win which Cave felt his hamstring tightening just before half time and did not return for the second half.
Director of rugby, Les Kiss, said there was “no major concern” in the dressing room after the match, but they would monitor both players along with Alan O’Connor who suffered a stinger injury to a shoulder.
Piutau was inspirational in the first half for Ulster as was Cave and their absence in the second half was a factor in the side not scoring any points during the back 40 minutes.
Piutau also picked up the man of the match in spite of being forced off in the 49th minute, although there were impressive displays from Louis Ludik and Jacob Stockdale who both got on the scoresheet.
Tries for Paul Marshall and Cave ensured Ulster ended a four-match losing streak and picked up a valuable bonus-point win over the Scots, who left Belfast with a losing bonus point thanks to tries through Magnus Bradbury, Stuart McInally and Damien Hoyland and a penalty from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
It was a much needed lift for Ulster who also were finally able to play their South African signing from last summer after he recovered from a serious knee injury sustained last April playing with his former club Sharks in the Super Rugby Championship.
Kiss said: “It’s our first win in a while so absolutely we’re happy with it.
“The first half, when we put the right things together, we were sublime and some of the play we put together was really good. After the halftime break we just didn’t execute, we were down there dominating things but we weren’t opening them up and we were a little bit dumb at times I thought and they just stayed in the game.
“Another soft try is disappointing, but the guys at the end were real about it, that second half just wasn’t good enough.
“But there are a lot of good things to take from tonight.
“ Marcell had a cracking game, I thought he put some dominant carries which makes a difference, it helps the whole back row.
“Charles had some good touches; Jacob was really good and it was great to see Pete Nelson back. He had to play the whole 80 because we had some injuries in our back line as did Stu Olding..
“There were a lot of pleasing things from the game, and we didn’t lose it at the end, we stayed strong and fought it out. Would we like a different 25 minutes at the end, yes, but we had to get the win and that was key.
Kiss accepted if Ulster could have got one score early in the second half during a period of domination, it would have made the difference.
“We didn’t put the same penetration into them and shorten their line, we weren’t clinical enough at times. There was one down there on the right hand side where if Robbie (Diack) throws the pass we open them up, Stu McCloskey down here takes the tackle and if he passes and follows it up we maybe do better there. We just didn’t trust ourselves like we did in that first half.”
The rest of the half was disappointing and although Ulster did not look like losing it, Kiss said it was a disappointing aspect of the night.
“ At the end of the game I was disappointed to a degree, but when you think about it a lot of our guys hadn’t played rugby for a long time and they did get tired in the second half and that execution dropped.
“The ball was in the air for too long, it travelled too far between the 9 and the 10 and that allowed them to come up on us and we didn’t get the momentum. It became really messy and that gave them a chance.
“Those are the disappointing things but they’re fixable, and the thing we have to take from the game is that if we can put together more of those things in the first half in terms of our carries and clinicality at the breakdown, play quick and play now, then we’re a dangerous team.”
Ulster emptied their bench, but no one seemed to make much impact, however Kiss said: “When you take Marcell off, and then you lose Charles you’re losing a lot of penetration.
“Maybe we could have had a bit more, but I know within the team there were a lot of blokes who hadn’t played for a long time and maybe that fatigue came through towards the end of the game.”