Ulster end pre-season campaign with victory over Saracens in London

Saracens 3 v 33 UlsterUlster finished their pre-season preparations for the United Rugby Championship with a dominant victory over three-time European Champions Saracens at London’s Honourable Artillery Company grounds.

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 8:16 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 8:18 pm

Dan McFarland’s side bounced back from last week’s 45-21 defeat against the English Premiership side by scoring five tries and limiting their hosts to a single penalty in the last hit-out before Glasgow visit Kingspan Stadium in the league opener next Friday.

Ulster had to weather an early barrage from the home team, after a couple of powerful driving mauls Saracens forced a penalty in the visitor’s 22, the forwards set up a driving maul but Robert Baloucoune was able to stop flanker Ben Earle for grounding the ball over the try line.

Ulster broke the deadlock with their first sortie into the Saracens 22, taking advantage of the new 50/22 when Billy Burns’ kick from his own half landed in touch, giving the visitors the throw at the lineout.

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Ulster's Craig Gilroy scores during the pre-season friendly against Saracens at the Honourable Artillery Company Grounds, Armoury House, London. Photo by John Dickson/Dicksondigital.

Saracens stopped the maul illegally but gave away a penalty at the scrum, John Cooney tried to take a quick tap but lock Nick Isiekwe impeded the scrum half and received a yellow card.

Ulster kicked the penalty to the corner and after a forward drive Nick Timoney came onto the crash ball to power over for a try on 11 minutes with Cooney converting.

Ulster, still with a man advantage, struck again six minutes later, Burns put Michael Lowry in space and the full back hit Craig Gilroy, with the winger able to hold off a tackle to place the ball over the try line with Cooney converting.

Out half Alex Lozowski got Saracens only points with a 25th minute penalty from in front of the posts.

Saracens centre Nick Tomkins was sin-binned for a spear tackle on Brad Roberts two minutes later.

Ulster should have increased their lead before the break, Hume took Burns’ Crossfield kick close to the line and stepped inside a defender, but centre Stewart Moore knocked on the try-scoring pass and the visitors had to settle for a 14-3 half-time lead.

Ulster continued to dominate after the break and their territorial and possessional advantage was rewarded on 49 minutes with a try from replacement centre Angus Curtis.

The forwards probed at the Saracens defence before Cooney shipped the ball to Curtis and he was able to hold of tackles by Earle and Sean Maitland to scramble over, with Cooney converting.

Gilroy collected his second try six minutes later.

Again the forwards punched holes in the Saracens with Mick Kearney, Callum Reid Greg Jones all going close, before Ethan McIlroy released the ball out of the tackle to put Gilroy over with Curtis converting.

Flanker Marcus Rea wrapped up the victory with Ulster’s fifth try.

The visitors went to the corner and Rea was propelled over from a driving maul but Curtis failed to convert.

John Andrew was shown a yellow card on 75 minutes but Ulster’s 14 men we able to fend off multiple Saracens attacks and keep their try line from being breached.