Nathan Doak the star man as Ulster defeat Benetton
Ulster made it three bonus points wins out of three games in the United Rugby Championship with a 28-8 victory over Benetton at Kingspan Stadium.
Nathan Doak, for a second week running, took the ‘man-of-the-match’ accolade, scoring two tries including the bonus point try with two minutes remaining.
The scrum half also kicked all four conversions but there was more bad news for coach Dan McFarland on the injury front.
Prop Andy Warwick had to leave the pitch with less than 10 minutes on the clock while out half Billy Burns didn’t reappear for the second half, plus Ulster had gone into the game with 14 players missing due to injury.
After a cagey opening seven minutes it was the visitors that broke the deadlock as out half Leonardo Marin slotted over a penalty after Ulster prop Tom O’Toole failed to roll away in the tackle.
Rob Herring, winning his 200th cap for Ulster, was denied a try on 15 minutes. From a driving maul the hooker broke off and surged over but it was disallowed for David McCann blocking a defender to create the gap.
Benetton had tight head prop Ivan Nemer yellow-carded two minutes later for killing the ball on his own try line.
Ulster finally made their numerical advantage and dominance count in the 23rd minute.
From a lineout the ball was moved in-field, Burns was under pressure but managed to put in a spiral kick, Craig Gilroy nipped in front of Benetton winger Ratuva Tavuyara to claim the ball and dart over from close range with Doak converting.
Ulster stuck again three minutes later with Doak finishing off a well-worked move.
Stewart Moore, Matty Rea and Herring carried hard, Doak hit David McCann on a good running support line. McCann showed a burst of speed to accelerate to just outside the 22 before drawing Benetton full back Rhyno Smith and popping the ball to his scum half who had enough pace and strength to ground the ball.
Doak converted his own try.
Herring got his try on 33 minutes as Ulster kicked a penalty to touch, the forwards set up the driving maul and as the visitors’ defence parted the hooker was able to stretch and touch down.
Doak was accurate with the conversion to give Ulster a 21-3 lead at the interval.
Benetton’s first sustained period of pressure in the Ulster 22 saw centre James Hume yellow-carded on 57 minutes.
Benetton elected to take a scrum from the resulting penalty, Braam Steyn broke off the back, scrum half Callum Braley flung a long pass out to the wing, Fijian Ratuva Tavuyara wrong-footed Gilroy and powered over from close range for an unconverted try.
As Ulster pushed for the bonus point try, Sean Reidy was stopped short as the flanker broke from a driving maul, however, Benetton conceded a penalty.
Ulster went to the corner again, replacement hooker Brad Roberts shot off the back of the maul but was stopped inches from the line.
The home side showed composure and worked the ball through a number of phases, Doak lifted the ball from the base of a ruck and drove at Benetton prop Tiziano Pasquali and with the help of Sean Reidy was able to get over the whitewash to claim a valuable bonus point try, then he kicked the conversion.
Ulster: W Addison, C Gilroy, J Hume, S Moore, E McIlroy, B Burns, N Doak, A Warwick, R Herring, T O’Toole; A O’Connor, S Carter (capt), Matty Rea, N Timoney, D McCann.
Replacements: B Roberts for Herring 69 mins, C Reid for Warwick 2 mins, R Kane for O’Toole 54 mins, M Kearney for Carter 50 mins, S Reidy for McCann 64 mins, D Shanahan for Doak 79 mins, M Lowry for Burns 41 mins, B Moxham.
Benetton: R Smith, R Tavuyara, M Zanon, T Benvenuti, L Sperandio, L Marin, C Braley, F Zani, C Els, I Nemer; I Herbst, F Ruzza; G Pettinelli, M Lamaro (capt), B Steyn.
Replacements: T Baravalle for Els 49 mins, C Traore for Zani 41 mins, T Pasquali for Nemer 50 mins, M Lazzaroni for Herbst 49 mins, S Negri for Lamaro 49 mins, L Cannone for Braley 76 mins, L Petrozzi, L Morisi for Benvenuti 61 mins
Referee: AJ Jacobs (SARU).
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