Sharks in sight as Ulster target home reward off Edinburgh joy

Ulster have sealed a European Champions Cup place for next season and also a quarter-final in the United Rugby Championship.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 6:00 am

Ulster became the first side to beat Edinburgh at their new DAM Health Stadium off the hard-fought 16-10 win.

Ulster had already qualified for the last eight of the domestic competition before they took to the pitch in the Scottish capital after the Scarlets had lost 54-36 to the Ospreys earlier on Saturday.

The win over Edinburgh means Dan McFarland’s side can’t finish any lower that seventh in the URC and that guarantees rugby at Europe’s top table next season.

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Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Pic by Getty.

Where and who Ulster play in the URC quarter-final won’t be decided until the last weekend.

Ulster welcome the Sharks to the Kingspan Stadium in their final regular season game and a win would secure a home last-eight tie...defeat would probably mean they would have to travel.

With no European involvement, Ulster have time to prepare for the Sharks, the South African side two places and a point above them in the table.

“The Sharks is going to be huge because a home quarter-final is big in this competition, the Sharks won well on Saturday, they are a good team and very strong up front,” said McFarland. “It is going to be a real challenge for us, but we love playing at home and it will be good to get back there and play for a home quarter-final.

“Sharks are a really strong team, they have a big front row, they are a very strong scrummaging and maul team...but we are not so bad there either.

“We’ll welcome them and try to move them around the park a bit and see what comes of it.”

McFarland praised his side’s defensive effort in Edinburgh, especially as they conceded no points during two sperate yellow card periods.

“Edinburgh threatened really well in attack, we had to call upon our defence and they did great,” said McFarland. “We don’t normally let clean breaks through but we had a couple of defensive errors...but I was proud of the way the guys reassessed, looked at what they were doing and kept their inside shoulders strong, didn’t come up as high on the outside and break the line and we managed to get our defence into a situation where we could hold on.”

Ulster flanker Nick Timoney was sinned-binned after five minutes for making contact with his shoulder to Edinburgh hooker Stuart McInally’s head.

The yellow card came either side of Ulster losing skipper Iain Henderson and centre Stuart McCloskey to injury.

Despite the early adversity, Robert Baloucoune scored Ulster’s only try on 15 minutes after slick hands from McCloskey’s replacement, Stewart Moore, put the winger over in the corner, with Nathan Doak landing the difficult conversion.

Doak slotted over two penalties on 19 minutes and 34 minutes to give Ulster a 13-0 lead.

Emiliano Boffelli kicked a penalty for Edinburgh to reduce Ulster’s interval lead to 10 points.

Doak was on target with his third penalty on 49 minutes.

Ulster survived another 10-minute period with 14 men after Alan O’Connor was sin-binned.

Edinburgh centre Mark Bennett gathered his own chip-and-chase to dot down with Boffelli converting.

Edinburgh finished the game camped on Ulster’s try line but without success.