Ulster back on top of the United Rugby Championship off win over Cardiff

Ulster stormed back to the top of United Rugby Championship for at least 24 hours with a bonus point win by 48-12 over an out-of-sorts and rusty Cardiff Blues at Kingspan.

By Ciaran Donaghy
Friday, 4th March 2022, 11:01 pm

The Welsh region hadn’t played in five weeks, but Ulster were in ruthless mood and scored seven tries.

Winger Robert Baloucoune broke the deadlock for the home side with a try on eight minutes. Ulster kicked a penalty from their own half into Cardiff territory, the driving maul was static, Nathan Doak spun the ball in-field, Billy Burns put up a spiralling kick which totally bamboozled Cardiff full back Hallam Amos as he watched the bouncing ball Baloucoune raced through to gather and nobody was going to stop the Irish international from the 22.

Doak added the conversion.

Ulster head coach Dan McFarland. Pic by Getty.

Cardiff centre Willis Halaholo was yellow-carded for a cynical foul in front of his own posts on 12 minutes, allowing Doak to slot over an easy penalty.

James Hume, fresh from his Ireland appearance against Italy last Sunday, picked off a stray pass by Cardiff out half Jarrod Evans on his own 22 and sped all the way under the visitors’ posts for Ulster’s second try on 15 minutes, which Doak converted.

Ulster repelled the first real spell of Cardiff pressure in their 22, however, the home side conceded a penalty, the Welsh region opted to take a quick tap penalty but knocked the ball on.

Centre Stuart McCloskey bagged Ulster’s third try on the stroke of half-time. Nick Timoney took a short pass and accelerated through a gap, he was hauled down, Ulster recycled quickly and McCloskey barged over to give the home side 22-0 at the interval after Doak’s conversion came off the upright.

Cardiff broke their duck on 45 minutes with a try from hooker Kirby Myhill. Evans slipped the ball to Rey Lee-Lo, the centre was stopped short of the line, Cardiff did enough to win the breakdown and a wide pass put Myhill over for an unconverted try.

Ulster responded immediately with the bonus point try. McCloskey rode a tackle to release Timoney and the Ireland backrow evaded four tackles to scramble over the line with Doak converting.

A great break by Stewart Moore created a second try for Baloucoune as the winger used John Cooney inside him as a decoy to cruise over with the replacement scrum half adding the conversion.

Winger Aaron Sexton scored his first try for Ulster after he finished off a slick handling move on 63 minutes which involved McCloskey, Hume and Moore as Cooney landed the conversion.

Replacement hooker Tom Stewart also got his first senior try on 70 minutes.

Ulster kicked a penalty to the corner and the forwards set up a textbook driving maul for Stewart to crash over with Cooney banging over the touchline conversion.

Replacement James Ratti got a consolation try for Cardiff with four minutes remaining which Ben Thomas converted.

Ulster scored a fantastic length-of-the-field try with the last play of the game but it was disallowed for a forward pass in the build-up.